Muslims in Hong Kong’s largest Kowloon mosque raised the Chinese language nationwide flag formal ceremonies in July and October this yr, to mark the town’s handover to China in 1997 and the October 1 Nationwide Day.
The transfer has induced shock and disappointment amongst some believers, who see it as a problem to the Islamic doctrine of the supremacy of God. But few really feel protected sufficient to talk out for concern of hazard. political reprisals or neighborhood strain, in accordance with a Hong Kong Muslim who spoke to Radio Free Asia on situation of anonymity.
The ceremonies happen throughout the framework of the ruling Chinese language Communist Occasion will increase management on non secular websites throughout China, forcing them to help the management of the Communist Occasion of China and chief Xi Jinping’s plans for the “Sinicization” of spiritual actions.
Muslim leaders in Hong Kong have spoken to RFA Cantonese over the previous 18 months about “a creating relationship” with Chinese language officers, who’ve “urged” they may start ceremonial shows of patriotism equivalent to flag-raising ceremonies.
The ceremonies have been pretty high-profile affairs, attended by neighborhood leaders and imams, officers from Beijing’s Central Liaison Workplace in Hong Kong, in addition to high-ranking police and native authorities officers.
At a latest ceremony filmed by RFA, officers stood by impassively as mosque guests carried out the ceremonial actions supposed to point out the utmost respect for the flag, then sang the Chinese language nationwide anthem, whereas plainclothes police watched from the sidelines .
An nameless Muslim from Hong Kong mentioned some believers are very sad with the transfer, which they are saying undermines the essential Islamic precept that God is supreme, and forces them to decide on between their faith and political “correctness” beneath China’s atheist ruling Communist Occasion .
“Allah is the one highest precept that exists,” mentioned the girl, who gave solely the pseudonym Miriam for concern of strain from her personal neighborhood and persecution beneath a draconian safety laws imposed by Beijing on Hong Kong.
“I do not perceive how folks see room for compromise right here and attempt to argue that this is not an issue,” she mentioned. “I’m really and fully shocked by this. It is unthinkable.”
Miriam mentioned she was particularly “deeply disenchanted” by the presence of the native imam.
‘The flag of an atheist nation’
Organizers mentioned the occasions, which observe numerous conferences between Muslim neighborhood leaders and Chinese language officers, are certainly a nod to Beijing’s “Sinicization of faith” program and are more likely to proceed.
“Earlier than, we did not have the concept of elevating a flag,” mentioned Saeed Uddin, chief of Hong Kong’s Muslim neighborhood. “Then our relationship has developed during the last yr and a half.”
“There was a suggestion: ‘Why not.’ [flag-raising],'” he mentioned. “I believe this isn’t a foul thought, to make folks extra patriotic in direction of China. They take pleasure in it. It isn’t an issue.”
However when requested about dissent amongst Muslims in Hong Kong, he admitted there have been variations throughout the neighborhood.
“We should respect variations of opinion,” Saeed Uddin mentioned. However he added: “We are going to attempt to persuade them.”
Though Muslims should essentially coexist with secular energy, they’re anticipated to take care of a sure distance, by no means lose sight of the supremacy of God of their actions, and keep away from idolatry in any respect prices.
Non-Islamic photos and human likenesses are prevented, particularly in holy locations equivalent to mosques.
For Miriam, the Chinese language flag represents a totalitarian and atheist state that sees its personal energy as supreme, and may by no means be seen in a mosque.
“There is no such thing as a drawback with having the flag of a Muslim nation in a mosque as a result of that nation already acknowledges no increased authority than God,” she mentioned. “The nation itself might be based mostly on Islamic precepts.”
“However I’ve by no means seen the flag of an atheist nation overtly in a mosque,” she mentioned. “Possibly they’re utilizing folks’s lack of know-how of Islam to drive this on them.”
Rizwan Ullah, honorary advisor of the Islamic Neighborhood Fund of Hong Kong, helps Beijing’s efforts to spice up patriotism in the neighborhood.
“We don’t increase the Chinese language flag or sing the nationwide anthem throughout a prayer time,” he lately advised RFA Cantonese. “So it has no impact on our beliefs or our habits.”
“Historical past will present that this was the precise first step,” he mentioned, in language much like that utilized by Chinese language officers.
‘Two issues can coexist’
China’s “sinicization of faithThe coverage has led church buildings in mainland China to show portraits of Communist Occasion chief Xi Jinping and prompted native officers to forcibly demolish domes, minarets and different artistic endeavors. architectural options in mosques throughout the nation, generally within the face of large protests.
The Communist Occasion now requires all non secular believers to like each their nation and their faith, claiming that patriotism is a part of Islam.
Riswan Ullah agreed with this view.
“I do not see any battle. I pray 5 occasions a day,” he mentioned. “I increase the flag at completely different occasions of the day.”
“I do not perceive why being a patriot by some means makes me a foul Muslim. It isn’t a zero-sum equation: these two issues can coexist,” he mentioned.
However for Hong Kong’s Muslims, loving your personal nation – China – additionally means loving the atheist ruling Communist Occasion, which excludes its personal members from any type of non secular perception.
“A faith like Islam clearly requires a really excessive diploma of devotion,” says James D. Frankel, an skilled on Chinese language Islamic Research on the Chinese language College of Hong Kong.
“There may be none extra highly effective than the Creator, from the angle of believers.”
“Any declare that he’s extra highly effective than the supreme energy of the universe goes to boost some questions,” Frankel mentioned.
“When [officials] say ‘love your nation, love your faith’, loving your nation comes earlier than loving your faith [in that slogan].”
Miriam believes Hong Kong’s Muslim leaders have been significantly improper, and he or she fears their place might mislead many others into considering there isn’t a basic battle.
‘They co-opted our votes’
Many Hong Kong Muslims are dissatisfied with their leaders’ actions however are reluctant to talk out due to strain to evolve from their very own communities, and the specter of prosecution beneath the Nationwide Safety Regulation, she advised RFA.
“Simply because we do not converse out doesn’t suggest every little thing they do is correct,” she mentioned.
“That is really a really small neighborhood, and as soon as folks know your identify, they are going to simply be capable to discover out the place you reside, whose son or daughter you’re, who your loved ones is – it is an unstated rule.”
Miriam mentioned she has seen the neighborhood’s tendency in direction of self-censorship earlier than in Hong Kong police fired a water cannon on the Kowloon Mosque throughout the 2019 protest motion.
“When the mosque was hit by a water cannon in 2019, many younger Muslims have been very crucial and took to Fb and Instagram to remark in English,” says Miriam.
“However inside every week they have been all gone. They have been all warned towards remark.”
She mentioned neighborhood leaders appear to have taken it upon themselves to get cozy with Beijing, no matter what the remainder of the neighborhood thinks.
“These persons are all from the institution, and so they have co-opted our voices, not solely in worldly issues, but in addition by way of our non secular id, one thing that shouldn’t be compromised, whereas they declare to symbolize us.” mentioned Miriam.
“We’ve got no selection however to just accept a collection of misinterpretations and blasphemies from these folks as helpless spectators,” she mentioned.
“I can predict that sooner or later they would be the ones to oppress us, the weak ones in the neighborhood, as our so-called representatives.”
Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Matt Reed.