Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) says the Taipei City Government should fund the building of a bigger mosque to signal the city’s friendliness to Muslims.
Ko made the remarks on Sunday in response to queries about Taiwan’s inclusion in a US-led multinational coalition to fight the Islamic State group, according to the Operation Inherent Resolve Web site, which, in a list of coalition member states, showed the Republic of China national flag under the heading “Taiwan.”
“When there is an errand to run or a job to do, they call us Taiwan. When they do not need us, they kick us out,” Ko said, before reiterating his commitment to running an inclusive and friendly city, and touting Taipei’s various Muslim-friendly facilities, including the establishment of prayer rooms at city hall.
Ko said he had been invited to attend a service at a Taipei mosque during Ramadan and found that overcrowding was a problem.
The city should use its budget to build “a bigger mosque, preferably close to an MRT [Mass Rapid Transit] station, ” Ko said, adding that he would speak with Minister Without Portfolio Chang Ching-sen (張景森) about the matter.
When asked for comments, Taipei City councilors appeared to be surprised by Ko’s remarks, with many decrying the timing or propriety of the proposal.
Democratic Progressive Party Taipei City Councilor Ho Chih-wei (何志偉) said the mayor’s suggestion needed to be “proof-read for logic,” adding that the government has “almost no history” of giving financial aid for the construction of religious buildings, regardless of faith or creed.
“The chief issue is Taipei’s migrant workers have no place to go during holidays and the problem should be addressed by involving the representatives of Muslim nations to find suitable and friendly spaces for them,” Ho said.
“If the mayor is serious about the proposal, then of course I will support it as a city councilor, but the mayor needs to think things over before opening his mouth; making light of the proposal might inadvertently show disrespect to our Muslim friends by disappointing their expectations,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Chen Lee-hui (陳孋輝) said.
Former imam of the Taipei Grand Mosque Hajj Ishag Ma (馬孝棋) said that although there are other ways to help Taipei’s migrant workers, Ko deserves to be congratulated for displaying goodwill, especially when “erroneous beliefs” about Muslims persist.
“Allah will not blame a man for not doing what exceeds his ability, but gives heart to those who harbor benevolence,” Ma said.
Meanwhile, in response to criticism from some in Taipei’s Muslim community that the mayor had seemingly associated Muslims with terrorism, Ko yesterday clarified his remarks by stating that he did not intend to offend.
He said his comments were prompted by a desire to alleviate overcrowding at the Taipei Grand Mosque in Daan District (大安), which has been serving a large congregation of Muslim migrant workers that its facilities are not spacious enough to accommodate.
Ko said he visited the Taipei Grand Mosque during Ramadan and had inspected Taipei Railway Station at the weekend, where he found that more than 10,000 Muslim migrant workers congregate.
“This shows that there is a religious need,” Ko said.
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