Overview of Islam in Vietnam
The Muslim community in Vietnam now consists of only a few thousand members, mostly Khmer and Cham, or about 6.5% of the population. A pillar dating from the 10th century, with Arabic inscriptions, is the oldest evidence of the Muslim presence on Vietnamese soil. This pillar was found near the coastal town of Phan Rang. Islam in Vietnam is therefore a religion of some importance.
The Muslim Chams are mostly settled around Chau Doc, in the Mekong Delta. However, they practice a rather unorthodox Islam. For example, they only pray once a week, on Fridays, instead of the required five daily prayers. They do not eat pork but drink alcohol, and do not make the pilgrimage to Mecca. They observe Ramadan (a month-long annual fast) for only three days. Moreover, they only possess rare copies of the Koran and even their religious leaders read Arabic with difficulty. Finally, the Cham celebrate rituals inspired by Islam as well as animist or Hindu cults.