The scene was a familiar one around the world but in the SAR, it was relatively rare. When the American and British war machine was bombing Iraq in mid-December, hundreds of Muslims rallied outside the Kowloon Mosque in Tsim Sha Tsui and chanted anti-American slogans. 'Impeach Clinton,' they screamed in unison. Several men burned an American flag. If you did not see Kowloon's busy streets in the background, the angry protest could be mistaken for any one of many in countries in the grip of the Islamic resurgence across many parts of the world today. How has the religious revival with its fundamentalist fervour - which Western commentators have compared in scope and significance to the Protestant Reformation, the American and French revolutions - affected the 70,000-plus Muslims in the SAR? 'I don't think fundamentalism has yet an impact here but I know there will be. It's hard to say how many, but there are a lot of people who are against Western policies,' says United Muslim Association of Hong Kong chairman Mohamed Alli Din. Mr Din organised the mosque protest but speaks as a moderate community leader. 'There are many fundamentalists and also some fanatics among us, people who are very devoted, from Pakistan. These are people who, if you say something bad about Islam, will come and club you.' Part of the relevance of the issue concerning fundamentalism in Hong Kong has to do with demographic changes within the local Islamic community. According to the Islamic Union of Hong Kong, more than 50 per cent of local Muslims are ethnic Chinese, with the rest originating from Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the Middle East and Africa. Unlike many of their counterparts overseas, Chinese Muslims have traditionally assumed a rather low profile. The Chinese in the Asian diaspora have been largely apolitical, and Chinese Muslims in Hong Kong are no exception. Despite their being in the majority within the local Muslim community, most agree they will play an increasingly insignificant role because many have become non-observant or detached from Islam over the years. Yeung Lap-kwong came to Hong Kong as a child when his Muslim parents fled the Chinese civil war. 'I was born a Muslim because of my parents. I have an Islamic name but I don't use it,' says the 65-year-old retired textile trader. 'If you ask what religion I belong to, I will say Islam but I am really more a non-practising Muslim. My children are all grown-ups and I let them choose their own religions.' According to Mr Din, there have been few new Chinese converts to Islam and many old ones have lost their faith. 'Chinese Muslims are so busy making money. They are not very involved in Islamic activities,' says Mr Din. 'With the older Muslims from the mainland, there is nothing to bring them back to the community because our community lacks facilities and institutions.' The numbers of Chinese Muslims have dwindled, and will continue to do so, as they are replaced by non-Chinese Muslims, Mr Din says. 'If you go to our mosques, you don't see any young Chinese. But for non-Chinese Muslims, they are increasing. They may be born here and go back to India and Pakistan but when things go bad over there, they come back.' It is because of their anticipated proportionate drop within the Islamic community as the population expands with more and more non-Chinese members that some argue the community will become more vocal and assertive. The history of this traditionally quiet local community has been almost completely neglected. And, until recently, the local population and the media had largely ignored the religious community. Frank Welsh's authoritative History of Hong Kong has no references to Islam or local Muslims. There has been no study or book written on the minority, says local historian Ko Tim-keung. This is despite the community's long history, dating back to the time of the first British colonialists in 1842. 'It's an interesting subject but for whatever reason, maybe the marginalised status of the community, nothing has been written on it,' Mr Ko says. Mr Din has another explanation. 'Many Indian-Pakistanis are low-income workers and so are less organised. They are not well-educated,' he says. 'They know how to practise Islam but they don't have time to write and do research.' But from what little we know, all the accounts agree that when the British colonists first took over Hong Kong, they brought in Indian Muslims, mainly from Punjab, to fill in as policemen, soldiers and prison guards. Muslim merchants from India and Shanghai came soon afterwards. Almost a century later, Chinese Muslims, escaping from the Japanese invasion and later the communist takeover, formed another wave of migration. In 1947, the British created Pakistan by carving off the Muslim areas from India, and since then, the country has been a source of Muslim migrants to Hong Kong. Though the Islamic revival as organised politics along religious doctrines has not caught on with local Muslims, non-Chinese Muslims from countries that have undergone the revival may feel more assertive and play a more active role in the community in future. But one of the difficulties in talking about political Islam, Mr Din observes, is that even the terms of the debate are in dispute. 'Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world,' he laments. Sayed Gouda, 30, a translator from Egypt well-versed in Islamic affairs in Hong Kong, agrees. 'Is there fundamentalism in Hong Kong? First of all, what do we mean by the word?' he says. 'For us, fundamentalism means returning to the true basics of Islam. If you say Islam is just about mosques and rituals, you don't understand Islam. Islam is a complete system of life. There is nothing in our life that Islam has left out. 'But for the Western world, they understand fundamentalism as extremism fanatics.' According to fellow Egyptian translator Salah Elewa, 28, political Islam is at the heart of the religious revival, and it is this difference in political culture between East and West that makes it difficult for foreigners to understand Islam. 'Westerners have difficulty understanding anything other than democracy,' he says. 'The separation of church and state works very nicely in the West but Islam doesn't work that way: it's a combined whole.' Mr Elewa says incomprehension has frequently turned to hostility. 'The focus of the Western media after the fall of the Soviet Union has shifted to Islam,' he says. 'There are some groups acting out of deep frustration who resort to violence. Bombing this and that is not Islam but the media has created this association of violence with Islam. 'Say, the IRA in Ireland. They don't represent all the Catholics in the world. When the IRA committed a violent act, you wouldn't say Christianity drove them to it. But you would with Islam.' As the Palestinian-American literary critic Edward Said writes: 'Terrorism is by now permanently, almost subliminally, associated in the first instance with Islam. 'In the minds of the unprepared or the unalert, Islam calls up images of bearded clerics and mad suicidal bombers, of unrelenting Iranian mullahs and fanatical fundamentalists, and kidnappers, remorseless turbaned crowds who chant hatred of the United States, 'the Great Satan', and all its ways.' Mr Din is angry with such stereotyping and the double standards that it helps justify Western actions against Islam. But as a community organiser, he believes in acting locally. 'We don't have our own schools, old-age homes and hospitals. We need them for our people,' he says. But this too is a political strategy. As one political commentator wrote, 'In most countries, a central element of Islamisation was the development of Islamic social organisations and the capture of previously existing organisations by Islamic groups.'