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Islam in Hong Kong

Muslims and Everyday Life in China World City

Paul O’Connor

Publication Year: 2012

More than a quarter of a million Muslims live and work in Hong Kong. Among them are descendants of families who have been in the city for generations, recent immigrants from around the world, and growing numbers of migrant workers. Islam in Hong Kong explores the lives of Muslims as ethnic and religious minorities in this unique postcolonial Chinese city. Drawing on interviews with Muslims of different origins, O’Connor builds a detailed picture of daily life through topical chapters on language, space, religious education, daily prayers, maintaining a halal diet in a Chinese environment, racism, and other subjects. Although the picture that emerges is complex and ambiguous, one striking conclusion is that Muslims in Hong Kong generally find acceptance as a community and do not consider themselves to be victimised because of their religion.

Published by: Hong Kong University Press, HKU

Title Page, Copyright

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List of illustrations

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pp. ix

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Series foreword

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pp. xi-xii

Most past research on Hong Kong has been generally aimed to inform a diverse audience about the place and its people. Beginning in the 1950s, the aim of scholars and journalists who came to Hong Kong was to study China, which had not yet opened its doors to fieldwork by outsiders...

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pp. xiii-xiv

It is with great pleasure that I acknowledge and thank the following individuals and organisations, all of whom have played important roles in supporting this work. Images from the 2006 Danish Cartoon demonstrations are used with the kind permission of Alex Hofford. The doctoral...

Section 1: Foundations

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1. Introduction: Oi Kwan Road

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pp. 3-20

When we think of Hong Kong, Islam is not something that springs to mind. Popular images of Hong Kong portray hyper-modern skyscrapers, Chinese signs in bright neon, a place of commercial and gastronomic delights. The Hong Kong that is popularly imagined evokes an association...

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2. The history of Islam in Hong Kong

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pp. 21-33

Riding on Hong Kong’s crowded but efficient Mass Transit Railway (MTR) underground system is an experience that personifies the modernism of Hong Kong. The trains, despite the estimated 4 million passengers they take every day, are noticeably clean, impressively frequent, and...

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3. Transformations

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pp. 35-54

Much of the history discussed in the previous chapter is tied to the British colonial regime. It is therefore important to bring this story up to date and to chart the significant transformations that have occurred within Hong Kong’s Islamic community in the post-colonial era, not least because these...

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4. Islam, Chungking Mansions, and otherness

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pp. 55-66

Chungking Mansions may be one of the places most readily associated with Muslims in Hong Kong. Only 270 metres separate the Kowloon Mosque and Chungking Mansions. Indeed proximity to the Kowloon Mosque, its legion of Pakistani shop owners, halal restaurants, and African...

Section 2. Religious Practice

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5. Learning to be Muslim

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pp. 69-83

A dear Bangladeshi friend tells me that all individuals enter the world as Muslim. Elaborating on this declaration, he explains that all humans are born knowing only purity and goodness, delivered from god. He argues that life, with all its distractions, the very many things to do and...

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6. Daily practice

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pp. 85-96

Everyday life is characterised by de Certeau (1984, p. 43) as a ‘vast ensemble’ of ‘procedures’. Islam, perhaps more so than any other religion with the exception of orthodox Judaism, places a great focus on orthopraxis, the following of correct procedures. The daily lives of Muslims...

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7. The ambiguity of halal food in Hong Kong

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pp. 97-113

Preserving a halal diet is one of the obligations that Muslims have that highlights their presence as minorities among non-Muslims in a distinct way. Keeping a halal diet in a non-Islamic country reminds Muslims of their religious identity. Unlike the wearing of the veil that reveals a...

Section 3. Language, Space, and Racism

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8. Muslim youth, language, and education

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pp. 117-138

Everyday life in Hong Kong involves the navigation of a variety of languages. Many people can go about their daily lives without having to speak anything other than their mother tongue. However, more often than not, daily exchanges, work, and schooling necessitate communications...

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9. Chinese/not Chinese

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pp. 139-149

Our first encounters with people are often dictated by a broad set of essential associations, of previous experiences and simple stereotypes. Chapter 1 briefly highlighted how pervasive stereotypes of Muslims are. The debate in this chapter will challenge popular representations of...

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10. Racism versus freedom

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pp. 151-169

Towards the end of my research I attended a conference on multiculturalism in Melbourne. The event had a broad scope dealing with issues of citizenship, migration, work and ethnicity. In the concluding forum provided by the keynote speakers, two comments were raised that are key to the...

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11. Use of space

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pp. 171-190

All everyday activities are linked in some way to the use of space; they occur within a physical space and can have an impact on and influence over multiple spaces. As humans, we physically occupy space and thus all discussions about society are in a variety of ways connected to geography, architecture...

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12. Conclusion: Thoughts on an anonymous letter

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pp. 191-198

During the very beginning of my research I was passed an anonymous letter via a friend. What I read challenged some of my perceptions of Islam in the territory, about the international school community, and Hong Kong itself. It was donated as a contribution to the voices of young...


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pp. 199-200


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pp. 201-211


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pp. 213-217

E-ISBN-13: 9789882208827
Print-ISBN-13: 9789888139576

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 10 b/w
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1