Thailand in the Serenity of Calm-Sweeping Mawlid
I arrived late, my Thai Muslim friends were already speaking in rapid-tones and almost meaningless sequences, sharing news and gossiping about the state of untold violence in Narathiwat, Pattani and Yala.
The southern Thai Melayu language is different from the mixed-matched slang of those living in Malaysia's northern states of Kelantan, Kedah, Perlis and Terengganu. I only find it challenging to understand when they speak with excitement. My proficient is Thai is almost non-existent however I pat myself on the back when it comes to the South Thai lingo.
Telly was blasting loudly, a special broadcast, showing Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister of Thailand, at a Mawlid event. She was surrounded by Thai Muslims, those living in Bangkok and others from the ThaiSouth. Mawlid is an observance of the birthday of Islam's Prophet Muhammad.
While watching the segment, my young friends spoke in undertones, some were quiet while sipping strong sweet black coffee. They were curious about Yingluck's growing reputation with the Muslim community. In Bangkok, the Muslims are a minority, although the Buddhists are the minority in the ThaiSouth. Their prime minister is not without charms and grace, even I was surprised that despite the random daily violence in the ThaiSouth, Yingluck with her ministers tagging in the entourage went to the south to engage in dialogues with religious community leaders and security forces.
There's a consensus that Thai Muslims want peace for their families, in their neighborhoods, villages and their future. We spoke about the Malaysian-facilitated talks between the Thai government and the socialist-Islamic militant group called BRN-Coordinate, and the possibility of roping PULO, another insurgent group, into the talks. As it is, more and more Thai Muslims are openly showing their support for Yingluck, particularly the women and elderly. The younger generation seems undecided or think on a different line, but all that I have met have condemned the violence committed by self-proclaimed Jihadists and fundamental extremists.
The large turnout at the Mawlid should reflect well on Yingluck, scoring political grades with her involvement in supporting Muslims in their religious rights and community-based livelihood programs. Many see this as a promising sign. While others are leaning towards neutralizing past resentment to the Buddhist Institution in the direction of a wait, hope and see approach.
It's encouraging nevertheless. The prayers spoken by the wheelchair-bound Imam left me courteously respectful of the Muslim community, who are firm believers of perseverance, and distant thoughts of my faith and life.
By the time I reached my room, I could hear the calm echoing, and the lingering chants of peace.