Thu, Jun 27, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Academic touts Taiwan’s friendliness toward Muslims

Staff writer, with CNA

Pakistani Usman Iqbal, 33, is one of the youngest faculty members at Taipei Medical University, where he teaches as an assistant professor, researches health informatics and manages several national and international health IT projects.

He has witnessed many changes in the decade he has lived in Taiwan, but as a Muslim, he pays particular attention to the treatment of Muslims, Iqbal said.

“When I first got here, it was hard to tell if a food product contained pork or not, which made every meal full of surprises,” he said.

Thanks to the government’s push for halal certification — which identifies operators that serve food in compliance with Islamic dietary law — dining has become far easier, he said.

Today, halal-certified food products are clearly labeled and can be found at major supermarkets, he said.

Two new mosques have also been built since he arrived, making it easier for Muslims to worship, Iqbal added.

He said he has found that authorities show great respect for Muslims, such as when police put traffic controls in place during mosque services.

“I think Taiwan is very friendly [toward Muslims]; it is pretty good,” he said.

Iqbal said he has noticed more visitors from Muslim countries, an observation that seems to be supported by official reports.

In the 2018 Report on International Religious Freedom released earlier this month by the US Department of State, Taiwan was recognized for making “significant” progress in improving rights for Muslims.

The report cited the Taipei-based Chinese-Muslim Association as saying: “Authorities were making significant progress in improving rights for Muslims,” such as increasing the number of restaurants and hotels that cater to halal requirements, and establishing prayer rooms.

Taiwan’s friendliness toward Muslims is one of the main reasons why Iqbal applied for a Plum Blossom Card, which grants permanent residency to foreigners in recognition of their special contributions to Taiwan as part of the government’s efforts to retain top international talent.

The program is aimed at uniquely qualified, skilled professionals. For those who receive the card, there are no minimum residency or income requirements, and no filing fees, unlike other permanent residency programs.

Highly qualified foreigners who have made contributions to Taiwan or those who have invested at least US$200,000 in the nation are eligible to apply.

Currently, 90 people have Plum Blossom Cards, National Immigration Agency statistics showed.

After learning of the program and that his expertise in the use of artificial intelligence in medicine meant he could qualify, Iqbal applied in July 2017 and received the card in April, becoming the first Pakistani to do so.

Iqbal said that Taiwan’s strong technological infrastructure allows him to continue to learn from the best in his field and conduct research.

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