21 Hong Kong’s Muslim leaders issue ‘letter of peace’ in bid to curb Islamophobia

SHAFAQNA – Muslim leaders in Hong Kong have issued an open “letter of peace” in a bid to curb a rise in Islamophobia after recent news reports claimed that the militant group Islamic State was recruiting Indonesian migrant workers in the city.

The letter, which was backed by more than 21 Muslim groups and released in English and Chinese, listed key teachings of the religion to help dispel some of the common myths about Islam.

“The Muslims in Hong Kong have lived side by side with their fellow non-Muslims for the best part of the last 175 years, and we certainly desire nothing else but to continue this peaceful coexistence,” the letter said.

“We request everyone not to judge the religion by the actions of a few, rather judge it by its original scriptures and sources. There are bad apples in every basket.”

Adeel Malik, an English teacher and one of the directors of educational group Discover Islam Hong Kong, said: “Discrimination is in every society, and we can’t say Hong Kong is absent from that. These [news] articles have brought these issues from the back of the mind to the front of the mind because it’s happening at [ our] doorstep. We have felt that as a community, the stories have had a negative impact.”

Malik said there had been several cases of Muslim women wearing religious clothing such as hijabs or niqabs in Hong Kong being targeted with comments about links to terrorism, prompting Muslim groups to be more proactive in raising awareness of their religion among non-Muslims in the city.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Malik moved to the UK when he was 15 for study and returned to Hong Kong in 2008, partly because of the rise in Islamophobia in Britain, he said, mentioning that the open letter was “about building bridges with the local community”.

Businessman Ali Diallo, who moved to the city from Guinea about five years ago and teaches courses on Islam, said referring to the letter: “Since I’ve come to Hong Kong, this is the first time that I’ve seen the Muslim community come together like this.”

Hong Kong’s chief imam, Muhammad Arshad, said local Muslims were shocked with the news stories “because it was unexpected and still most of them do not believe that ISIS could reach here”.

He said comments from Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and Police Commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung about a terrorism threat and possible links to Islamic State “would have been based on some intelligence reports so we have asked our community to be vigilant and supportive to the authority”.

He urged the media to also be vigilant so as not to reinforce misconceptions about Muslims.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as Muslims’ letter of peace seeks understanding

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