Hari Raya: Malaysians in HK stay close to home with food and technology

Muzzil, seen in front of Kowloon Mosque, video calls his family in Malaysia during Hari Raya. — Hong Kong Tourism Board

A common practice among the 300,000-strong Muslim community in Hong Kong come Ramadan would be to gather at the mosques.

The four large mosques in the island city – Kowloon Masjid, Masjid Al Ammar, Jamie Mosque and Chai Wan Mosque – would be abuzz with congregants breaking fast and praying together.

But the Ramadan scene in Hong Kong (and other parts of the world, for that matter) has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hong Kong chief imam Muhammad Arshad said Ramadan last year and this time around have been “totally different from the previous years”.

“While we’re still doing Tarawih prayers, social distancing and safety measures are implemented and we’re not organising any collective gathering for breaking fast, unlike previous years where congregants would bring food and drinks to share with the community, ” he said.

The lack of social gathering is also taking a toll on Anisha, a Malaysian living in Hong Kong.

Having moved to Hong Kong 12 years ago when she married her husband, a Hong Kong citizen, Anisha has observed Ramadan many times in Hong Kong, as she’s unable to return to Malaysia every year.

“Occasionally, we would go to Masjid al Amar in Wan Chai to break fast. During Ramadan, for 30 days, they offer free meals to all Muslims to break fast, ” she said.

Anisha, with her family in Hong Kong, usually goes to Kowloon Masjid for their Hari Raya prayers.

“There used to be three prayer sessions because of the crowd. All Muslims in Hong Kong will be here, so you can imagine the crowd and everyone wearing new clothes and celebrating under one roof. I really enjoyed this, ” she said.

For Malaysians living in Hong Kong, Hari Raya is when many would reconnect at open houses and feast on delicious food.

Social distancing, unfortunately, has taken those joyful gatherings away. Luckily, the abundance of delicious halal food in the city has brought some semblance of comfort to them.

Muzzil Qayyum Khairat, another Malaysian, said he used to frequent halal eateries spread across Hong Kong when he moved there for work in 2019.

There are several halal restaurants and cafes in the city, but the well-known halal Chinese food are found in Kowloon City and the Islamic Centre Canteen in Wan Chai.When Muzzil is not eating at halal restaurants, he cooks his own meals.

“I source my halal meat from a halal sundry shop in Cheung Sha Wan or Sham Shui Po that I’ve frequented since 2019, ” he said.

While halal items and Muslim-friendly locations are widely available across Hong Kong, Anisha and Muzzil still miss home, because that’s where their families are.

Their situation mirrors those of many Malaysians at home who won’t get to balik kampung to be with loved ones this year.

But technology can help to bring families together, and it’s something that both Anisha and Muzzil have been doing while living abroad.

They shared that they would video call with their families in Malaysia frequently throughout Ramadan, and on the first day of Hari Raya.

The way chief imam Muhammad Arshad sees it, Ramadan is a time for the world to be united.

“The challenges that came with the pandemic has brought us all together to defend ourselves irrespective of colour, creed and country.

“Ramadan teaches us discipline, self-accountability and caring for others, so there’s no better time to practice that than in this holy month,” he concluded.

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