chapter  6
In the name of God: South Asian Muslims in a Chinese temple fair in Hong Kong
ByWAI-CHI CHEE
Pages 20

Globalization and transnational flows of religious groups may mean negotiation and contestation for religious spaces, especially in cities (Geoffroy 2004). While some scholars argue that, as a consequence, sociability has become a casualty in capitalist modern cities (Marty 2007; Niebuhr 2007), others contend that the acquired cosmopolitan worldview has encouraged accommodation of differences (Garces-Foley 2007; Moore 2007; Roof 2007; Williams 2007). Adding to this conversation, I put my focus on Hong Kong, which claims to be ‘Asia’s world city’, and which is well known for increasingly crowded public spaces. This research explores how religious spaces are created, negotiated, and contested between a migrant ethnic-religious minority group and the local dominant group by looking into the active participation of some fifty South Asian women and children, predominantly Pakistani Muslims, in a Chinese temple fair (Tai Kok Tsui Temple Fair). This group’s participation is remarkable because it contradicts the usual

perception that Muslims are subject to strict religious rules and therefore do not participate in Chinese popular religion. It also problematizes the general claim that South Asians in Hong Kong, especially women, are subject to institutionalized discrimination and social exclusion (City University of Hong Kong and Unison Hong Kong 2003; Frost 2004; Ku 2006; Ku et al. 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010; Loper 2004; Plüss 2006). Above all, these Muslims’ involvement in the Chinese temple fair demonstrates the permeability of religious boundaries and the creation of new spaces for religious pluralism. According to Michael Peletz (2009), pluralism is more than diversity.

Pluralism, he maintains, refers to ‘social fields, cultural domains, and more encompassing systems in which two or more principles, categories, groups, sources of authority, or ways of being in the world are not only present, tolerated, and accommodated, but also accorded legitimacy in a Weberian sense’ (Peletz 2009: 7). Put differently, diversity without legitimacy is not pluralism. Thus, the central question is how diversity is ascribed legitimacy. By looking at the religious and social spaces inhabited by Islamic women and children in a Chinese temple fair, this chapter seeks to inform how people make sense of and handle variation among one another, and how, in the process, they negotiate pluralism. I analyse in particular the social, cultural, political, and economic factors that are