Taipei, Dec. 23 (CNA) Hundreds of people flocked to Daan Forest Park in Taipei Saturday to experience Islamic lifestyle at an Islamic cultural fair featuring traditional dance, cuisine and art performances.
The fair, which was held for the first time by the Chinese Muslim Association to both commemorate its 80th anniversary and celebrate the increased presence of Islamic culture in Taiwan, saw all its 60 booths flooded by curious people eager to try traditional clothing, food and henna painting.
"Islamic culture is highly artistic," said 26-year-old Hsieh Hsueh-yin (謝學胤) after having his name turned into Arabic calligraphy by a Muslim artist.
"This is a great event through which people can interact with the Muslim community," said Burkina Faso Ambassador to the Republic of China Aminata Sana Congo.
Salahuding Ma (馬超彥), secretary-general of the association, told CNA that it is time Taiwanese became more acquainted with Islam in the wake of more cultural, trade and travel exchanges between Taiwan and the rest of the world.
Some 40 percent of the population of the countries targeted by the government's New Southbound Policy are Muslim, Ma said, referring to the policy launched last year that aims at enhancing Taiwan's relations with countries in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
With more migrant workers coming to Taiwan from countries like Indonesia, where Islam is the dominant religion, more attention should be paid to the group, he added.
According to the association, there are around 50,000 Taiwanese Muslims and more than 200,000 foreign Muslims in the country.
While there have been more Muslim-friendly facilities and services introduced in recent years, including prayer rooms in public areas and a Halal certification system for local restaurants, there remains room for improvement, Ma said.
The issues that need to be addressed include a lack of burial grounds, as cremation is forbidden for Muslims, as well as their special food requirements in the military, he said.
The gap between metropolitan cities and suburban areas also adds to the challenge, he went on, noting that among some 120 Halal restaurants in Taiwan, 40 are in Taipei, with Keelung and Changhua having none at all.
Others point out even more important issues of personal concern.
"The absence of bidets is a headache," said Ali King (金玉泉), a retired professor of the Department of Arabic Language and Culture at National Chengchi University.
King said he hopes to see more Muslim-friendly facilities introduced to public spaces to cover all aspects of their daily needs.