Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan's foreign workers observe Ramadan

RELIGIOUS DUTY Fending off invitations to lunch without offending their colleagues is only one problem faced by many Moslems living in a non-Islamic country


Lukman, an Indonesian laborer at a textile factory in Shulin, works from 8am to 8pm everyday.

"During Ramadan, I don't eat in the morning. Although my job requires long hours and a lot of stamina, I am able to perform my job well throughout the day without eating or drinking," Lukman said.

According to Lukman, all workers in the factory have dinner together at 6pm, but he prefers not to eat with them, but wait till his shift is over at 8pm.

"I prefer to pray after my shift to break the fast and eat by myself. Sometimes, I only eat for the first time at 11pm if I work an extra shift, but a very late meal does not bother me at all," he said.

Novi, an Indonesian student who has been learning Chinese at National Taiwan Normal University for two months, has had to explain Ramadan to her fellow students several times when asked to join them for lunch.

"I understand that asking others to have meals together is a common courtesy in Taiwan. When I am invited to lunch during Ramadan, I will explain politely to my classmates what we Muslims practice. After my explanation, they usually become very accepting and thus do not feel rejected," Novi said.

Since Islam is a little understood religion in Taiwan, many Muslims have been misunderstood by the non-Muslims around them, especially during Ramadan.

"During this month, we have to wake up early and cook before dawn. Therefore, many neighbors who are wakened by the clattering of pots and pans early in the morning might wonder what is going on next door," Ma said.

Ma said that if Muslims are invited to lunch and they decline the invitation, those issuing the invitations may feel that they have been looked down upon.

"Fasting is to cleanse one's soul and spirit, as well as to reflect upon one's deeds and thoughts. As one feels hunger pains, one is able to experience the feeling of starvation that the underprivileged has to go through every day," Ma said.

Ramadan starts on Sept. 1 every year according to the Islamic calendar. The exact start and end of the lunar month depends on when the new moon is first seen.

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