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President hails Muslim role in pushing New Southbound Policy

2017/09/18 16:39:47

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文, right)

Taipei, Sept. 18 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Monday during a meeting with a Taiwan-based Muslim association that the Muslim community is a major partner of Taiwan and an indispensable force for promoting its New Southbound Policy.

At the beginning of the meeting, Tsai congratulated the delegation composed of members of the Taipei-based Chinese Muslim Association for concluding its Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, the most holy city for Muslims.

The association organizes an annual Hajj mission and sponsors an international Islamic conference, an Asia regional Muslim youth summer camp and Islamic study courses.

Noting that Islam is one of the foremost world religions, Tsai said that there are many followers of the religion in Taiwan who have helped to greatly improve Taiwanese people's knowledge about the religion in recent years.

According to government statistics, there are between 50,000 and 60,00 Taiwanese who call themselves Muslims and more than 200,000 Muslim immigrants and migrant workers mainly from Indonesia and other areas of Southeast Asia.

The president expressed hope of building Taiwan into being more friendly toward Muslims and making them feel at home. With this in mind, prayer rooms have been established in major transport hubs around the country, such as airports and bus terminals, to meet the needs of Muslims for their daily prayers.

Meanwhile, to attract more Muslim travelers, Taiwan has been promoting a halal certification system that identifies restaurants that serve food in compliance with Islamic dietary laws, and the number of halal restaurants in the country is on the rise, according to Tsai.

The number of restaurants with Halal certification in Taiwan reached 104 in April this year, while around 200,000 of the 10.44 million visitors to Taiwan in 2015 were Muslims, up 11.11 percent from 2014, according to the Tourism Bureau.

Tsai said that Muslims are a bridge linking Taiwan with Islam and constitute an essential force in the government's push for its New Southbound Policy, which aims to enhance Taiwan's exchanges and cooperation in areas including culture and religion with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

(By Sophia Yeh and Evelyn Kao)
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