CAIRO - When Friday azan goes to announce the timing for the weekly sermon and prayer, hundreds of Muslims throng to Hong Kong's decades-old Kowloon Mosque to hear three sermons catering to multi-ethnic worshippers.
We have Asians including Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and Indians as well as Africans and Arabs, Mufti Muhammad Arshad, the current chief imam for Hong Kong, told South China Morning Post on Tuesday, September 17.
There is much more open-mindedness here, he said. Also I get the chance to travel!
Voted one of the world's top 500 Muslims in 2009, Arshad expressed relief about relocating in Hong Kong years ago.
Born in Multan in central Pakistan to an imam too, Arshad, an award-winning student, went on to become the imam for the Pakistani armed forces after having studied Islamic studies at university.
So I started my career in the Pakistan army as an imam, so similar to a chaplain in the army. So I looked after the other imams and religious affairs, he said.
After eight years work in Hong Kong as an imam, he moved to the US with his family in 2011.
Starting was a new life in the US, he was one of the Muslim imams who had the opportunity to attend memorial services following the 9/11 attacks.
Islam is not a religion of extreme terrorists, he said.
Everywhere all over the world Muslims are living. Islam is not an ethnic religion.
Later on, he moved to Asia to oversee a population of about 200,000 Muslims in Hong Kong.
Arshad's role involves the religious affairs at the mosque, but also social services for the different communities.
He also goes on halal inspections of restaurants.
Currently, he is working with the authorities to organize Muslim pilgrims' flights to Makkah to perform the life time journey of hajj.
Working in a multi-cultural society, Arshad found himself in inter-religious dialogue.
On the 25th of this month we will have an inter-faith meeting in the mosque, he said.
Previously, we have gone with a group to the synagogue, the Jewish community come to visit us here.
I have also visited many churches here and temples of the Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu and other religions, he added.
Estimates put the number of Muslims in Hong Kong between 200,000 and 250,000.
About 100,000 are from Indonesia and work as domestic helpers. The rest come from all over the world, including large populations from Pakistan, Bangladesh and West Africa.
Only 20,000 or so are Hong Kong citizens.
Representing Hong Kong Muslims, Arshad has been calling on the government to make Muslim `Eid a holiday.
He is still working on that and recently met Legislative Council president Jasper Tsang Yok-sing to discuss the matter.
Principally he agrees, said Arshad.
Finding a peaceful refuge in Hong Kong to practice his religion freely, Arshad still laughs at the culture shock of coming to Hong Kong.
So many people! So congested! And the houses are so small!
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net