Starving of religion in Taiwan not exactly the pious pathway
The China Post news staffTwo women strolled into view. One, with her pale, wrinkled skin draped loosely over her skeletal frame, sat in a wheelchair, while the darker-skinned one pushed on methodically, occasionally dipping her head to gaze into the liver-spotted face. A sight commonly seen in Taiwan's mornings and afternoons, the duo depicted Taiwan's obvious reliance on limbs it has “rented” from hotter climates.
August 15, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
Foreign workers have gradually filled the crevices of the blue-collar job market the Taiwanese have learned to turn up their noses at after 1989, when the government opened the nation's doors to foreign laborers to prove that its “14 Infrastructure Plan” was not a mere boast on paper. Some three years later, the laborers were allowed to be employed in a wider variety of industries, and have since become second daughters to our old, second mothers to our young, the foundation rocks of possibly the very building you live in.
Ramadan comes in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The monthlong observance of fasting from dawn to dusk is considered one of the five pillars of the religion. It is still, however, a month that many had chose to kept mum about in Taiwan. When swarms of Muslim laborers gathered in the main hall of Taipei Railway Station to celebrate the end of Ramadan last week, they were pronounced “an eyesore” and potential troublemakers by a local prosecutor. The sad truth of their silence is reflected in a collective sigh; they knew many of us would not understand.
Roughly 30,000 Indonesian workers declared the station their temporary resting grounds on Aug. 11, the first weekend after the end of Ramadan. It was a well-deserved holiday that soothed many who are starved of religious practices in the homes of their employers. Passers-by were shocked at the number of people conversing rapidly in a strange tongue and bunched together in Taipei's main transportation hub. Some took the side of prosecutor Huang Chao-gui, saying that there will be riots and disturbances if the government does not put a stop to this, ultimately damaging Taipei's image.
Is this not discrimination?
Unused to people sprawled over open and common spaces, the worries heard from passing locals are understandable, but the accusing tones are not entirely excusable. There are over 460,000 blue-collar laborers who crossed the bounding billows to feed their families, many of whom are denied their religion and their holidays and face the difficulties of the simplest things they cannot help: being born with darker skin. And among the vast number of “darkies,” unfeelingly nicknamed by many Taiwanese, a whopping 200,000 are Islamic Indonesians.
Muslims are well known for their love of the one Allah, for staunchly keeping their five “salah” prayers each day and their indefatigable measure of faith by fasting, sunup to sundown, for a month. They discovered quickly that their religion was curbed by a lack of mosques and understanding for a religion that many Taiwanese are less familiar with. Rants about tiny wages and long work hours are often heard from foreign blue-collar workers, but many dared not speak out against being stripped of their rights to worship or how employers had tried to stamp out the Islamic practices in their employees.