Muslims in Hong Kong

Hong Kong means “Fragrant Harbour” and early Muslim seamen mostly came from the shores of Malabar (India), Bay of Bengal, Campbellpur (Attock), Hazara (Abbottabad), Lahore, and Gujarat. Besides those others came from Shanghai, Aden (Yemen), Java, Sumatra, Malacca, Malaya (now Malaysia), Sarawak, South-Sea Borneo, Brunei, Port Said (Egypt), Turkey, Zanzibar (Tanzania).

With Hong Kong beginning to develop into an important seaport for the British, more and more seamen and garrisons were passing through and some settled here, like Chinese Turkestan, Burmese, Ceylonese, Indo-Chinese, white Russians from both Russia and Harbin, Moros from the South Philippines and Arabs etc.

During the early 19th century many Muslim seamen had no proper accommodation or dormitory but somehow or other they managed to stay well-knitted together in an area known as Lower Lascar Row – in the Central area, better known to the Hong Kong old timers as “Moro Kai” (streets of the people of the Moros). The Muslim seamen held their first Jamat (gathering) in an open street at Lower Lascar Row, and continued to do so for a time. In those days the non-Muslims never dared to pass through that street after marketing for fear of hurting the Muslims’ feeling when they held pork and walked along while the Muslims were having their “Salat.” Years later with hundreds of the Muslims and their families having vacated their shops and residences for elsewhere in Hong Kong, their shops were taken over by Chinese traders selling Curios, Old Scrolls and Relics and these streets of Lower Lascar Row are now better known to many tourists as the “Cat Street.”

With Hong Kong already well established under the British Empire, more and more Muslims were heading this way from India filling many of the public servant roles as Hong Kong Police Constables, Marine Guards, Prison Guards, Dockyard Guards, Watchmen, Bank Clerks, Royal Naval Dockyard Police, Ferry Supervisors, Post Office Mail Launch Guards, Sanitary Foremen and Government Servants. The diamond traders from South India, especially Muslims, also came in big numbers.

Today there are more than 300,000 Muslims in Hong Kong, hailing from across the world. The majority are young, and were born in Hong Kong. There is also an increasing inflow of migrant workers, expats and students.