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Muslim minority thrives in Taiwan
Friday | 07/03/2014 - 07:19 AM
Muslim minority thrives in Taiwan

Rohingya News Agency‏ ‏‎–(gulfnews):‎ There are about 170,000 Muslims in Taiwan, out of which only about 60,000 are Taiwanese citizens, mostly descendants of the ethnic Hui people who migrated from mainland China in the late 1940s.

The majority is made up of foreign workers, mainly from Indonesia and Thailand. Put together, Muslims are but a drop in the ocean in this country of 24 million. But they face no discrimination and are allowed to practise their faith freely.

Professor Nouruddin, a PhD from San Francisco State University, has made it his mission to increase awareness about Muslim culture among the Taiwanese, and also to make Taiwan a destination favoured by foreign Muslim travellers, especially those from the Middle East.

“We have a very limited number of Muslims here. People don’t really understand us. But that is actually an opportunity for us. Chinese people respect anyone who follows any religion — they think that those who go to mosques, temples and churches are good people.”

But has the negative press that Islam and Muslims have received, especially since the attacks of 9/11, changed people’s attitudes? “Not at all. There is no effect of any news coverage. Local people just don’t care about international issues. They are simply not familiar with that stuff,” he said.

Dr Nouruddin believes that Chinese people feel their social mores and those of other Eastern cultures, such as Islam, are similar. “We, Chinese, value family a lot. People work all their lives to earn money for their families. Education is given prime importance; it is very crucial for Chinese people. We also appreciate children being disciplined. These are also Muslim values. Those who know about Islam appreciate its social values, such as absence of drinking and gambling. Both the government and people of Taiwan are very welcoming.”

The country has six mosques, with two in the capital Taipei, including the largest and oldest, the Taipei Grand Mosque. These mosques not only serve as places of worship but also act as community centres. On Fridays, there are sermons in both Chinese (Mandarin) and English (for the small but growing number of people from south Asia and the Middle East who have either made Taiwan their home or are frequent business visitors). There is a festive atmosphere every Friday, with people of different nationalities bringing along homemade food from their respective cuisines and sharing with others.

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