Mon, Feb 02, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Taipei rail station opens prayer room for Muslims

MARKED IMPROVEMENT:The Chinese Muslim Association said it was clear that the railway operator had reflected on its errors and made appropriate changes

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Muslims now have a quiet place to pray inside Taipei Railway Station after the opening of the station’s first Muslim prayer room last week.

The provision of the religious facility is seen as a move to further reshape the Taiwan Railways Administration’s image among the foreign community.

In 2012, the railway operator drew criticism and protests from foreign workers for setting up a cordon at the station’s lobby to block the entry of foreign workers gathering in celebration of Eid al-Fitr — an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims around the world, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of fasting — as the move was seen as discriminating against foreign workers.

Last year, the administration attempted to change the public’s perception of how it treated foreigners by setting up a stage in the center of the station’s lobby and engaging the assistance of other private agencies to jointly cohost festive events for Eid al-Fitr.

Currently, there are about 50,000 Taiwanese Muslims and 230,000 Indonesian workers in the nation.

Aside from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei Railway Station is the only transportation facility in the country that provides a prayer room.

According to the administration, the prayer room is on the basement floor of the station and covers an area of about 6.6m2. It is equipped with prayer mats and a sign pointing in the direction of Mecca.

As Muslims need to perform a minor ablution before prayer — they are required to clean their hands and lower extremities — the restroom near the prayer room has a Japanese-style washlet as well.

A similar facility is being considered for the Taoyuan Railway Station in the first half of this year.

The Chinese Muslim Association said the move showed that the railway operator has reflected on its previous deeds and improved on them.

Taipei Railway Station Master Chien Hsin-li (簡信立) said that many controversies that have occurred in the past were due to a lack of mutual understanding.

Chien said that the administration had consulted the association to make sure that the room’s specifications met international standards.

Chien said that Muslims requiring use of the facility can call the telephone number on the prayer room’s door upon arrival and station staff would come and unlock the door.

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