One man’s battle to maintain Islam alive in Taiwan

Mohammed Ma stands in entrance of a halal butcher store in Taipei, Taiwan, on Jan. 12. Photograph: Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian/Axios

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Fewer and fewer Chinese language Muslims in Taiwan observe the faith of their ancestors. The grandson of a well-known Chinese language Muslim basic is attempting to maintain the religion alive.

The large image: Chinese language Muslim communities in Taiwan are small and dispersed, which may make it tough to transmit their traditions throughout generations. However a latest wave of migrants from southeast Asia have infused new vitality into Islamic life in Taiwan.

What’s taking place: Mohammed Ma, a member of Taiwan’s Hui Muslim neighborhood, travels round Taiwan educating Muslims concerning the fundamentals of Islamic observe. He is additionally a self-taught halal butcher and offers contemporary Taiwan-raised halal meat and halal certifications for the handful of halal butcher outlets in Taipei.

  • Ma’s maternal grandfather is Bai Chongxi, one of many twentieth century’s most well-known Hui Muslims, who served as China’s minister of nationwide protection from 1946 to 1948 earlier than fleeing with Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan in 1949. Bai can be revered amongst Hui Muslims for founding quite a few Hui associations.
  • The resemblance between Ma and his grandfather is placing, and he appears to take his grandfather’s legacy critically. He serves as chairman of Taiwan’s Hui Affiliation, in addition to a supervisor with the Affiliation of Muslim Life Assist Taipei.

What he is saying: When Hui Muslims got here from China, “they dispersed round Taiwan slightly than forming concentrated communities,” Ma advised Axios in an interview. Many intermarried with members of the bulk Han ethnic group. Three or 4 generations later, lots of their descendants do not know the fundamentals of Islamic observe, Ma mentioned.

  • So Ma holds lessons instructing Muslims in Taiwan about what’s “halal” (permitted) and “haram” (forbidden) in Islam.
  • He additionally serves as a casual social employee for Muslims right here, together with many migrants, after they face troubles at residence or with the authorities.
  • “Most of what the Quran teaches is about relationships between folks. … So when Muslims listed here are having issues, they arrive discover me and ask me to assist,” Ma mentioned. “Folks name me their Muslim dad.”
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Background: Round 40,000 Hui Muslims fled China to Taiwan in 1949. Most had been troopers and generals from China’s central and northwest areas, the place Hui Muslims are concentrated.

  • The Hui are an ethnic group distinctive to China. They hint their ancestry again to Persian and Arab retailers and militias that arrived in China’s northwest a few thousand years in the past and intermarried with native Han Chinese language girls.
  • A number of Hui Muslims characteristic prominently in Chinese language historical past, together with Zheng He, a Fifteenth-century admiral who led big fleets on expeditions round southeast Asia and India, crusing so far as the Horn of Africa and maybe, some historians argue, even to California’s coast.

However now, Ma mentioned, there at the moment are solely about 20,000 individuals who determine as Hui in Taiwan.

  • “In Taiwan, the Hui inhabitants is just too small to maintain a cultural group,” Ma Haiyun (no relation to Mohammed; Ma is a standard surname amongst Hui Muslims), a professor at Frostburg State College in Maryland whose analysis focuses on Chinese language Muslims, advised Axios.
  • “The nice factor for the Hui Muslims in Taiwan is that they’ve a tolerant political and cultural atmosphere,” Ma Haiyun mentioned, including that in China, by comparability, Hui communities are a lot bigger however Islam is tightly managed.

The place it stands: Immigration is respiration new life into Muslim communities in Taiwan.

  • The Taipei Grand Mosque, the nation’s most well-known Muslim home of worship, was constructed below Bai’s supervision to accommodate the inflow of Hui Muslims from China. However now most common individuals in Friday prayers there are Indonesian, Malaysian and Pakistani.
  • At the moment there are 11 mosques in Taiwan, a number of of which had been based to help new immigrant communities.
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