Society

Islamic content in textbooks spurs discussion on religious education in Hong Kong

 

A history textbook and Liberal Studies DSE guide with information about Islam has caused concern in the city’s Muslim community.

When Adeel Malik, an English teacher at a local school in Kwai Chung, saw messages on social media linking terrorism with Islam, he was upset.

"They are basically explaining a social issue, but then they are connecting [terrorism] to Islam in a way which [the] Islamophobes know best," Mr Malik said.

Screenshots of the two books, Journey Through History: New Topic-based Series and the Liberal Studies (LS) Advanced 2020, have been circulating in Muslim WhatsApp groups.

The liberal studies book said some Muslims wanted to "safeguard" Islamic doctrines and cultures and they "started wars and attacks" against Western cultures.

That ignited discussions on Islamic education among members of the Muslim community in Hong Kong. 

The LS DSE guidebook includes remarks linking Islam and terrorism. The publisher has issued a statement to clarify their stance on the matter.

More disturbing for Muslims living in Hong Kong was that a history textbook contained false information about Islamic history.  

The book, among other things, claimed that Prophet Muhammad's face was shown in several paintings in the 15th century, but were discarded later to prevent idol worship of the Prophet and to focus on Allah [God in Arabic].

That's false, according to Islamic teachings. Islam prohibits drawings of any image of human beings.

Members of the Muslim community are upset over the content of the history and Liberal Studies books.

Raza Nasir Razi, an LS teacher at the Islamic Kasim Tuet Memorial College, is not surprised by what's in the books. During his career as a teacher in Canada, similar misunderstandings of the religion were common in the school curriculum. He found that misunderstanding of Islam to be "universal,"  referring to the common misconceptions of Islam in the West. 

"A primary mistake is that the textbook author [said] that Prophet Muhammad is the founder of Islam," Mr Nasir said. "Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was the final prophet and believe in all the prophets mentioned in the Abrahamic faiths."

But, Mr Malik is optimistic about the city's effort towards including Islamic education in the school curriculum. 

Despite its mistakes, he said that the history textbook included "fantastic material" such as important historical achievements for Muslims. 

"This is the first time that we've seen something like this being used to show Islam to young people in Hong Kong, who most of the time connect Islam to terrorism, or with oppression, because that's what they [see on] TV," he stated.

Mr Malik appreciated the efforts that Hong Kong has made to educate the public about the Islamic faith. "Even in the West, we don't see that," he said. 

He knew that the publishers were not Muslims and might have made mistakes that were not intended to demean the religion.

Aristo Publishing, the publisher of the history book, stated in an email that they have consulted The Incorporated Trustees of The Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, the official representative body for Muslims in the city.

The publishing company also linked a video of Mr Mufti Muhammad Arshad, the chief Imam of Hong Kong, explaining the controversy and acknowledging the issue. 

Mr Arshad added that the chief editor of Aristo Publishing approached the Trustees and have accepted the offer to amend anything deemed offensive to the Muslim community. The editor mentioned that the amended version would be published in the following academic year. 

Hillway Education Publishing, the publisher of the Liberal Studies guidebook issued a statement on Instagram clarifying their stance on the book's content on terrorism. 

According to the statement, the publisher noted that terrorist groups do not represent Islam or Muslims. After concerns were raised on the book, the publisher admitted that they were not able to clarify the common misconceptions of Islam. 

The publisher also stated in an email that the "new version" of the book is currently in production and promised to include "voices of different stakeholders," including both Muslims and racial minorities in the city. 

《The Young Reporter》

The Young Reporter (TYR) started as a newspaper in 1969. Today, it is published across multiple media platforms and updated constantly to bring the latest news and analyses to its readers.

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