NGOs, Transnational Networks and the Transformation of Muslim Communities in Cambodia

Since the 1993 reinstallment of the monarchy after the devastating rule of the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent Vietnamese occupation, foreign NGOs have been mushrooming in Cambodia. Several among these are charities that are based in Malaysia and the Arabian Gulf, and which have become the core of Muslim transnational networks that intersect in the country. These charities invested vast resources in order to reconstruct the Cambodian Muslim religious infrastructure and leadership, that had been almost completely wiped out during the Khmer Rouge. At the same time, they spread their own religious ideas and discourses among the country’s Muslim minorities. This research will inquire into how transnational Muslim networks and charities based in the Middle East and Malaysia have transformed the religious identity, leadership and infrastructure of Cambodia’s Muslim minorities. It will look into the evolution of the Gulf and Malaysian charities in the country, the patterns of the existing competition between them, and how the transnational flows and the transformation of the Islamic field altered the structure of gender relations among Cambodian Muslims. Perhaps the largest Islamic movement in Cambodia, Jama‘at al-Tabligh became one of the most important carriers of the coronavirus in the country, due to their early dismissal of social distancing, which led to mistrust and discrimination of Muslims among the majority, and intense internal debates among the Muslims themselves. Therefore, the project will also observe the ongoing transformations in the Muslim minority due to Covid-19, and will pay attention to the different discourses in the community regarding carrying out religious obligations in times of a pandemic. The chief method of data collection will be ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Cambodia, Malaysia and Kuwait.

Zoltan Pall

Martin Slama


Marie Curie Fellowship until 02.02.2022, afterwards ÖAW