Fri, Apr 27, 2001 - Page 7 News List

Mosque to open doors to public

The Taipei Grand Mosque will host two days of events this weekend to introduce people to Islam and Taiwan's Muslim community

By Ian Bartholomew  /  STAFF REPORTER

For its 41st anniversary this weekend, the Taipei Grand Mosque (台北清真大寺) will open its doors for two days of activities, including photographic retrospectives of the mosque and Taiwan's Muslim community and an exhibition of ebru, a traditional form of Turkish marbling and calligraphy.

The event will be held tomorrow and Sunday at the mosque located opposite Ta-an Forest Park on Hsinsheng South Road (新生南路).

The Taipei Grand Mosque is a familiar landmark to most Taipei residents, but few have actually stepped inside the building. This weekend's event is both a literal and official opening of the mosque's doors, as Ishag Ma (馬孝棋), an imam at the mosque said, "we want to open a door to the community."

Unknown to many, Muslims have played an important part in Taiwanese history, though they now form only a small community of little more than 60,000 people. According to Ma, some of Taiwan's earliest Muslim immigrants were troops who came with General Shihlang (施琅), dispatched to Taiwan to end the renegade rule of Ming loyalist Koxinga (鄭成功) in 1683. The Muslim soldiers settled in Lugang, Changhwa County, which still has many people with distinctly Muslim surnames, such as Ma (馬) and Kuo (郭).

Being such a small community, Immam Ma says Taiwanese Muslims come under enormous pressure to renounce their faith and the Islamic way of life. "Many people of the Kuo clan still live in Lukang," Ma said, "but they have lost their Muslim faith. We have invited them to this event."

Ma said the event is primarily a cultural celebration, but another function will be to invite no longer practicing Muslims back to the faith.

"Muslims in Taiwan are very much misunderstood," Ma said, pointing to the violence of such groups as Hamas, the Taliban and Abu Sayyaf as characteristic of the media portrayal of Islam.

"We want to present the positive face of Islam," he said, citing the exhibition of ebru art as intended to highlight Islamic artistic achievement.

Ma also emphasized the great contribution made to Taiwan by its Muslim population, not least in the area of international diplomacy, where Taiwan often finds itself isolated from the international community.

"We served as an important link with the Middle East during the oil crisis," Ma said.

For the Muslim community in Taiwan, the mosque serves as an important education center, offering Arabic lessons every weekend. It is also the center of the community's social life, and draws many of the nearly 60,000 expatriate Muslims living in Taiwan.

In other steps to inform people about Islam, the Taipei Grand Mosque has a Web site still partially under construction and Ma has suggested redesigning the wide sidewalk in front of the mosque into an information corridor about Islam.

Event Notes

What: 41st Anniversary of Completion of the Taipei Grand Mosque

When: Tomorrow and Sunday 10am to 5pm

Where: 62 Hsinsheng S. Rd., Sec. 2, Taipei 〈北市新生南路二段62號〉

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