The latest edition of the Global South Sephis eMagazine carries a review of my book ‘Islam in Hong Kong’. The Sephis Magazine is a rich publication that provides an academic perspective and dialogue on issue emerging from the Global South. Their newsletters are well written and cover a variety of issues, so they are certainly worth a look. This current issue relates to the Everyday in the Global South.
"In the last few decades, there has emerged a veritable flood of scholarly and amateur works on Islam and/or Muslims. While some of these works have been outstanding in terms of the erudition and reflection that went into their making, a considerably larger number of works have tended to appear simply because a market has appeared for books on Islam – particularly since 9/11. Most of these works are not likely to have much shelf-life, vanishing presumably as the hatred/antipathy towards, and ignorance of, Islam (which spawned such literature in the first place) would also – hopefully – diminish. Much of this literature on Islam and Muslims has tried to understand the complexity of Islam and the Muslim identity, from the standpoints of both insiders and outsiders, in a global environment that has often tended to look askance at these.
O’Connor’s book on Islam and Muslim Life in Hong Kong, I would wager, stands a decent chance of having a reasonable shelf-life, largely because it is – thankfully – not about Islam. For sure, it deals with Muslim life (and that is not the same as Islam), but it limits the compass of the work to the extremely unusual set of experiences of Muslims living in the city of Hong Kong. Part of a series of works on the culture and society of Hong Kong, O’Connor’s work attempts to present before us an anthropological sliver of the city’s life – concentrating on a small community of people (three per cent of the whole population) bound by their religion, despite coming from a variety of ethnic and national backgrounds…
The most delightful feature of the book is the author’s passionate association with his adopted city. The fascinating details about the city itself, the gentle care with which the word-portraits conjure up the images of the city, the loving familiarity with not merely the various quarters of the city but also with the people who inhabit these quarters – all these allow the reader to see the city through O’Connor’s eyes, which is becoming an increasingly rare kind of penmanship. The chapter on ‘transformation’ of the colonial city of Hong Kong into the World City of the People’s Republic, with a demographic profile unlike any other Chinese city anywhere in the mainland, conveys with some dexterity the problems faced by a city like Hong Kong in absorbing people from different countries – for instance introducing anti- racism laws to making Indonesian domestic workers feel at home in the city.”
Global South - Kingshuk Chatterjee - April 2013, pg.88