Islam in Vietnam is primarily the religion of the Cham people, a minority ethnic group related to Malays; however, roughly one-third of the Muslims in Vietnam are of other ethnic groups. There is also a community describing themselves of mixed ethnic origins (Cham, Khmer, Malay, Minang, Viet, Chinese and Arab), who practice Islam and are also known as Cham, or Cham Muslims, around the region of Chau Doc in the Southwest.
Uthman, the third Caliph of Islam, sent the first official Muslim envoy to Vietnam and Tang Dynasty China in 650. Seafaring Arab traders are known to have made stops at ports in the Champa Kingdom en route to China very early in the history of Islam; however, the earliest material evidence of the transmission of Islam consists of Song Dynasty-era documents from China which record that the Cham familiarised themselves with Islam in the late 10th and early 11th centuries. The number of followers began to increase as contacts with Sultanate of Malacca broadened in the wake of the 1471 collapse of the Champa Kingdom, but Islam would not become widespread among the Cham until the mid-17th century. In the mid-19th century, many Muslims Chams emigrated from Cambodia and settled in the Mekong River Delta region, further bolstering the presence of Islam in Vietnam. Malayan Islam began to have an increasing influence on the Chams in the early 20th century; religions publications were imported from Malaya, Malay clerics gave khutba (sermons) in mosques in the Malay language, and some Cham people went to Malayan madrasah to further their studies of Islam.
After the 1976 establishment of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, some of the 55,000 Muslim Chams emigrated to Malaysia. 1,750 were also accepted as immigrants by Yemen; most settled in Ta’izz. Those who remained did not suffer violent persecution, although some writers claim that their mosques were closed by the government. In 1981, foreign visitors to Vietnam were still permitted to speak to indigenous Muslims and pray alongside them, and a 1985 account described Ho Chi Minh City’s Muslim community as being especially ethnically diverse: aside from Cham people, there were also Indonesians, Malays, Pakistanis, Yemenis, Omanis, and North Africans; their total numbers were roughly 10,000 at the time. However, Vietnam’s Muslims remained relatively isolated from the mainstream of world Islam, and their isolation, combined with the lack of religious schools, caused the practice of Islam in Vietnam to become increasingly syncretic. Command of Arabic is not widespread even among religious leaders, and some Muslims are reported to pray to Ali and refer to him as the “Son of God”.
Vietnam’s largest mosque was opened in January 2006 in Xuan Loc, Dong Nai Province; its construction was partially funded by donations from Saudi Arabia.
Vietnam’s April 1999 census showed 63,146 Muslims. Over 77% lived in the Southeast Region, with 34% in Ninh Thuan Province, 24% in Binh Thuan Province, and 9% in Ho Chi Minh City; another 22% lived in the Mekong River Delta region, primarily in An Giang Province. Only 1% of Muslims lived in other regions of the country. The number of believers is gender-balanced to within 2% in every area of major concentration except An Giang, where the population of Muslim women is 7.5% larger than the population of Muslim men. This distribution is somewhat changed from that observed in earlier reports. Prior to 1975, almost half of the Muslims in the country lived in the Mekong River Delta, and as late as 1985, the Muslim community in Ho Chi Minh was reported to consist of nearly 10,000 individuals. Of the 54,775 members of the Muslim population over age 5, 13,516, or 25%, were currently attending school, 26,134, or 48%, had attended school in the past, and the remaining 15,121, or 27%, had never attended school, compared to 10% of the general population. This gives Muslims the second-highest rate of school non-attendance out of all religious groups in Vietnam (the highest rate being that for Protestants, at 34%). The school non-attendance rate was 22% for males and 32% for females. Muslims also had one of the lowest rate of university attendance, with less than 1% having attended any institution of higher learning, compared to just under 3% of the general population.
The Ho Chi Minh City Muslim Representative Committee was founded in 1991 with seven members; a similar body was formed in An Giang Province in 2004.