Mr Clive Chan, Headmaster

Mr Chan has extensive experience in teaching English to people of all ages and abilities. He returned to Hong Kong after spending years studying and working in Australia. He has taught English in different secondary schools and Business English at a university in Hong Kong.

Prejudice noun

1 Harm or injury to a person or thing that may result from a judgement of action.

2 A prior judgement esp. a judgment formed hastily or before due consideration.

3 Preconceived opinion not based on actual experience; bias, partiality.

4 A preliminary or anticipatory judgement; a preconceived idea of what will happen.

~  ‘Shorter Oxford English Dictionary’

Dear parents,

We may not be willing to admit it, but most of us hold some sorts of prejudice.  Prejudice comes from the word ‘prejudge’, which means we have some pre-conceived ideas (that may not be based on facts) about an issue, a person, a group of people, a country, or even an entire race.

More often than not, prejudice stems from our fear, ignorance, an unpleasant experience, or fragmented understanding.  Whatever the cause, our prejudice is usually not grounded on objective reasoning but feelings, which we are more than keen to deny by presenting some ‘facts’ to justify our bias.

A fairly common preconception is that Muslims are religious fanatics who hold extremist views and may turn to violence for a senseless religious cause.  Such a view probably originates from what we have read or heard about some terrorists of the already disintegrated ISIS, who in my view, stray from the original teachings of Islam that endorses peace and good deeds like love and absolute honesty for one’s deliverance on the day of judgement and resurrection.

However, the above prejudice has a stranglehold on some people’s minds, which has caused catastrophic consequences on some Muslim countries.  One such country is Iran which I was delighted to visit early last month.   Understandably, my family and friends were alarmed when I told them about my travel plans; some urged me to reconsider while some advised me to take out the most comprehensive travel insurance plan.

Their advice, though well-intended, was unwarranted.  Iran, as it has turned out, is one of the safest countries I have ever visited.  As opposed to the ubiquitous number of pickpockets or even robbers in European countries like Italy and France, none of the 29 members of our tour group has experienced any thefts during our 10-day trip.  Iranian people are generally well-mannered and friendly, smiling and welcoming us in touristic sites.  Many of us were thrilled to have become near ‘celebrities’ for wherever we went, we were surrounded by people who were keen to chat and take pictures with us.  I was particularly astounded when two parents allowed me to hold their babies of 3 and 9 months in my arms. I doubt it very much if any of us who have young babies will entrust our babies to strangers in Hong Kong.

Aside from its friendly people and beautiful landscape, Iran has a rich history and culture.  The first Persian Empire (the present-day Iran) established by Cyrus the Great more than 2500 years ago had more than half of the world’s territory and population.  More importantly, Cyrus the Great appreciated the varied customs and religions of the lands he conquered.  As a Christian, I was most impressed with his permitting the Jews who were taken captive by the Babylonians to go back and build the temple and fortress in Jerusalem. Such endorsement of diversity is a sign of true greatness, which is lacking among many of our political leaders these days.

Aside from being overwhelmed by the Persian history, as a literature freak, I have fallen in love with some mystical and love poems written by renowned Iranian poets like Hafiz and Baba Tahir.  Their poems, written at turbulent times, exemplify love and hope of human beings, which may partly explain why the Iranians can still smile when their country is experiencing unjustified economic sanctions and hyperinflation.

Seeing is believing.  I have discarded some of my prejudices after the unforgettable trip.  May I encourage you to examine your prejudices and seek the truth through independent investigation and genuine dialogue with people in the know?

Yours sincerely,

Clive Chan