Hong Kong Muslim community critical of police report warning of Islamic State-inspired attack
Council leader calls such pronouncements in absence of imminent threat ‘disturbing to the core’ and adding to stigma
Members of Hong Kong’s Muslim community hit out against a police report stating Islamic State-inspired lone wolves could carry out an attack in the city, claiming the force was adding to a stigma already felt by the community.
Earlier this month, police said terrorist groups could use the internet and social media to spread their radical ideology and target high-profile global institutions and representatives in the city. The force admitted, however, it had no specific intelligence indicating an attack in Hong Kong was imminent.
Muslim Council chairman Adeel Malik said such pronouncements were “disturbing to the core” and affected more than just the Muslim community.
“Ethnic minorities are facing issues already. There’s a lot of passive racism in Hong Kong ... where we’re always struggling [to integrate] in the local community. Things like this affect not only the Muslim community but also the ethnic minority community.”
Malik thought the report echoed comments made by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying and former police commissioner Andy Tsang Wai-hung in 2015, warning that Hong Kong should not take the threat of terrorism lightly.
Tsang stressed there was no information suggesting the city was a target for terrorism.
Malik said such statements by police and government officials, and published by the media, sowed “Islamophobia where there was no Islamophobia”.
“We saw comments [on Facebook] saying: ‘Again? I was just about to travel to Hong Kong’,” local Muslim resident Syed Ridwan Elahi said.
“So you can see people are already affected because of irresponsible messages.”
Malik believed such information should not be made public because it would create unnecessary panic.
If a threat existed, he argued, police could inform leaders of the Muslim community to see if they could help in any way.
Jamal Ashraff, another local Muslim resident, said the community had done its part to educate youth to be aware of extremist elements and “the evil of some senseless people”.
The timing of the latest statements by police suggests a link with the 20th anniversary of the handover in July, when many high-level mainland officials are expected to attend.
Police did not address concerns raised by Malik and Muslim residents, but regarding handover celebrations, a police spokeswoman said the global terrorist situation remained “volatile”.
“Police are duty-bound to ensure the personal safety of dignitaries, as well as members of the public, during the dignitaries’ visit to Hong Kong,” she said.
Malik said he and other members of the Muslim community would try to engage the community to help clear misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. He noted efforts in 2015 when they set up street booths to educate and engage people in dialogue to clarify Islam’s “correct message”.