Exclusive | UAE Consulate webinar: A dialogue of Islam in Hong Kong and tolerance in society
The UAE Consulate General in Hong Kong hosted a webinar titled "Islam in Hong Kong: a dialogue on tolerance" on June 25 to explore the role of tolerance and acceptance in society as well as to celebrate Imam Uthman Yang's new book, "Understanding Islam", published in 2020 by Joint Publishing Hong Kong.
Imam Yang serves at Masjid Ammar & Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre in Wan Chai, which is an important place of worship and learning for the more than 300,000 Muslims living in Hong Kong, who encompass different ethnicities including Indian, Pakistani, Chinese and people from various Middle Eastern and African backgrounds. The book offers a succinct introduction to the faith and explanation of its beliefs and practices, and includes a history of Muslims in Hong Kong dating back to the mid-19th century, filling a very unique niche in the local book market as the only one of its kind written in Chinese for the general population.
In her opening remarks, Acting Consul General Mariam Alshamsi mentioned the Consulate's support for the publication of this book to help locals understand more about Muslims as contributing members to society, as Muslims have been part of the social fabric in Hong Kong since the 1840s, yet many local Hongkongers today would be surprised by the long history of the Muslim presence in the community. She also mentioned the similarities between the UAE and Hong Kong as diverse, cosmopolitan societies, a fact which makes tolerance especially vital to both. She shared the saying from Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, founding father of the UAE, "To treat every person, no matter what his creed or race, as a special soul, is a mark of Islam", to illustrate that tolerance is a part of the UAE's national character.
In addition, the Acting Consul General shared stories of tolerance in the UAE, as well as the progress on the construction of the Abrahamic Family House, a multi-faith complex for worship, learning and dialogue comprising a mosque, a church and synagogue as well as shared community spaces.
She also thanked the participating panelists, who were experts from the fields of Islamic studies, sociology and interfaith relations, for contributing to the discussion and exchange of ideas.
Ms. Mariam Alshamsi, Acting Consul General (opening remarks)
Professor James Frankel, Director of the Centre for the Study of Islamic Culture, the Chinese University of Hong Kong (moderator)
Imam Uthman Yang, imam of Masjid Ammar & Osman Ramju Sadick Islamic Centre, Hong Kong Islamic Union (author)
Ms. Anne Lee, Deputy Editor in Chief, Joint Publishing Hong Kong (publisher)
Dr. Wai Yip Ho, Associate Professor, Department of Social Sciences, the Education University of Hong Kong
Dr. Paul O'Connor, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology & Social Policy, Lingnan University of Hong Kong & Lecturer, Exeter University (UK)
Ms. Nadia Castro, Educator at Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College & doctoral candidate at Education University of Hong Kong
Main points of webinar
During the webinar, the panelists all agreed that Hong Kong is a vibrant and multicultural city, but more interfaith dialogue is always welcome, and this is the reason why Joint Publishing, represented by Ms. Anne Lee, deputy editor in chief, took up the publication of this book, to illustrate the importance of multiculturalism and religious freedom in Hong Kong. She explained that the book is part of a series on religion, with other titles on Daoism, Buddhism and Catholicism.
Imam Uthman Yang, the writer, expressed his gratitude to Joint Publishing for their support of his book and helping to clear misconceptions about Islam. He welcomes everyone to visit the mosque to learn more about each other.
Meanwhile, Dr. Paul O'Connor marveled at the remarkable way different religions coexist in harmony in Hong Kong, though local Muslim minorities may still occasionally experience difficulties in issues such as halal food and dress.
Dr. Ho Wai Yip mentioned that finding adequate space for worship could be another challenge, and that Muslims and non-Muslims can learn many things about each other in terms of spirituality. As a Christian researcher, he is dedicated to promoting interfaith dialogue and organizing activities for his students to learn more about Islam.
Continuing in a similar vein, Ms. Nadia Castro, who teaches at Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College, shared about the school's efforts to promote tolerance, for example, working with the Equal Opportunities Commission and hosting multicultural activities at the school.
Professor James Frankel, the moderator, ended by saying that these discussions are very timely, especially as the pandemic has highlighted our urgent need to live together with fellow members of humanity. He also mentioned that multiculturalism in Hong Kong is very precious and deserves celebration and protection. Echoing the Acting Consul General's remarks at the beginning of the webinar, the panelists mused on the form that the multi-faith Abrahamic Family House might take in Hong Kong, which would very likely be an "Adamic House", referring to Hong Kong's rich array of religious traditions but which all inevitably link up to a shared humanity.