“Can you pray in Taiwan?”

2021-10-25

"Halal food is difficult; pork is everywhere. Can you pray in Taiwan? You will be banned to pray. Its people have no religion.". Such statements came out from some close relatives before I left for Taiwan for pursuing my doctorate program in 2019. There is no surprise that these stereotypes spread among Indonesians without looking and getting around directly in Taiwan. They consider Taiwan a communist country in which they assume practicing religious activities is completely banned by the country. However, the stereotypes have been ruined right after I travel around Taiwan. Being a muslim in a non-muslim country like Taiwan always concerns food and pray when travelling. 

Onigiri with its translated version, ranging from 27- 49NTD
Onigiri with its translated version, ranging from 27- 49NTD

Pork is a favorite ingredient including lard on Taiwanese food; however, despite a halal label on food and beverages package, Muslims can choose muslim-friendly meals such as fish, seafood, vegetables in 24-hour stores like family mart and seven-eleven. Muslims should not have worried they cannot find halal meals. Halal labeled food and beverages are difficult to find. It does not mean you cannot eat halal food. For example, on 7 Februray 2021 I went to Chiayi. I ate onigiri in Sevel nearby KM Hostel ; its package has the translated version of menu type. If Muslims concern that the chicken in onigiri is not halal, they can choose fish or alike.  

Even when you go to tourism places where there is no Sevel or fammart, you can ask to the restaurant if there is a vegan menu. Once it is vegan, it is totally reliable that dish does not use any meat at all. So, why Muslims have to worry about meals when they go travelling in Taiwan?; they go for travelling not for culinary. When I was in the top mount i.e. Alisan on 8 February 2021, where there were no Sevel or fammy, food stalls in the food courts have one menu that did not have ingredients from pork, lard, or blood. Even the seller is from Indonesia telling that "I cooked by myself, mbak. So, no pork at all, it is only young bamboo, and it's clean"

Practicing a five-time prayer in Taiwan is a big challenge. It is not due to its restriction, but it is about the place where you pray. It is not like every 100 meters Muslims can find mushola or mosque. Allah has given some ease to Muslims if they are in travel. For instance, I went to the National Palace Museum to which I took MRT and bus on 10 February 2020; I prayed when I was sitting on the bus. Did Taiwanese look at me while I was praying? Was I forbidden by officers when I prayed? The answer is big no. Reaching the Museum, I was shocked knowing that it has a praying room, so I prayed there. Practicing religious activities is not an issue for Muslims who are determined. Although there is no mushola or nearby masjeed, Muslims can pray

 Praying room at National Museum Palace
Praying room at National Museum Palace

To sum up, travelling in Taiwan while practicing Islam values for food and pray depends on Muslims themselves. Ease in doing religious activities in practice should erase negative stereotypes spreading among Indonesians in Indonesia. As a muslim who lives in Taiwan, I encourage my beloved muslim sisters and brothers from Indonesia to share their lovely experience in doing their religious activities. This sharing is not only dedicated to those Indonesians, but also Taiwanese. As I believe, Taiwanese are very much open to understand and respect the value of being Muslim. For food, we can tell Taiwanese what we cannot eat and what we cannot drink. For prayer, we can ask to any officer in the tourist places if there is a praying room or not. No availability of praying room does not imply that we cannot pray. Again, traveling in Taiwan is a great experience. 

Alisan township-old tree
Alisan township-old tree
Alisan – Cherry Blossoms
Alisan – Cherry Blossoms

write by  Viqi Ardaniah, Indonesia