Muslim Students Association – NCKU Makes Major Step for Muslims Living in Taiwan
成大穆斯林學生會 為穆斯林在台生活往前邁進一大步
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          NCKU Lifts the Veil of Islam and Creates First Muslim-friendly Campus

          An increasing number of foreign students enroll at NCKU every year, and many of them are followers of Islam. At present, there are approximately 200 Muslim students at NCKU from places around the world, including Iran, Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and even Burkina Faso in West Africa. In response to this growing trend, in 2014 the Muslim Students Association-NCKU (MSA) was founded.

          Current MSA president Faizal states that the MSA operates not only to serve its student members but also to promote interactions and exchanges with international Muslim organizations and to provide assistance to Muslims staying in Taiwan for short or long periods of time. For example, the MSA has provided Muslim businessmen with a venue for their ritual prayers. The five Muslim students that we interviewed all agreed that the prayer room established at NCKU in 2016 was a great advantage for Muslims living in Taiwan.

          Taiwanese Friendliness Makes Muslims in Taiwan Feel at Ease

          When it comes to Islam, there is a lot of curiosity from the Taiwanese public. The garments of a Muslim woman walking the sunny streets of Tainan in summer will especially draw attention. NCKU nursing student Dewi remarked that students are often curious about her clothes, asking why she has cloaks in so many colors and styles, and some even ask to try them on. She has been asked whether she is envious of the less-concealing clothes worn by other female students. To this, she replied, “I’m used to this style of dress, so I don’t feel envious or uncomfortable, but these are questions that I would never get in my own country, so I find talking about it really interesting!”

          Another troublesome matter for Muslims living in Taiwan is food. Muslims are prohibited from eating pork, and even the cookware used to cook their food must never have been used to cook pork. As a result, many Muslim students choose to cook their own meals, but this is difficult for Muslim students who live in a dorm with no access to a kitchen. Few restaurants offer halal food in Tainan. However, the friendliness of Taiwanese people and their respect for the religions of others have gratified these Muslim students. Faizal said, "The restaurants in Taiwan are all very friendly. They’re always willing to prepare our orders separately and as we request them.”

          Issa, who has been living in Taiwan for 3 years, shared her observations of the friendly treatment that Taiwanese people give to Muslims: “I have some friends who study in Northern Taiwan. Because they do not have a prayer room like we do here at NCKU, they perform their ritual prayers in the dormitory hall. However, they are never asked to leave or given strange looks. Instead, the other students try not to disturb them, which makes them feel at ease.”

          Living Abroad Helps Muslims Gain a Broader Perspective

          There is a widespread impression of Muslims as serious, dignified, and disciplined, but after meeting and talking with them, we were quick to realize that they can also be free and lively. When asked whether they envy the freedom of Taiwanese youth to socialize and enjoy themselves all five laughed. Issa said, “You can ask anyone in our department; everyone knows me! I am very boisterous and love chatting with people!”

          When we asked after their impressions of the Taiwanese, Dewi laughed. When she first arrived in Taiwan, she often saw senior citizens nagging and harping on about things loudly in public. Their yelling and scolding made her think that all elderly people in Taiwan had bad tempers. It wasn't until later that she realized they were talking loudly but not in anger.

          These foreign students have since graduated and returned to contribute to their hometowns and countries, but the kindness and acceptance of the Taiwanese have long made them think of Taiwan as their second home. Cultural differences are part of living in and exploring the world. It takes personal experience for people to be able to let go of and laugh over differences between individuals, races, and cultures. We hope that the broadened perspective gained by these students will continue to grow and serve them.

          近年來,台南古都日趨飄著國際味。校區遍佈台南市區的成功大學,外籍學生人數也年年成長,其中有相當多的同學信奉伊斯蘭教。這群信奉伊斯蘭教的外籍學生來自世界各地,因此成大在2014年組成穆斯林學生會(Muslim Students Association-NCKU,簡稱MSA) 。目前穆斯林學生數約200人,其中以來自印尼的居多,另也有來自伊朗、埃及、奈及利亞、印度、巴基斯坦、孟加拉、斯里蘭卡、馬來西亞等國家,甚至有來自西非布吉納法索的學生,相當國際化。

          MSA現任會長Faizal表示,成大穆斯林學生會的運行,不是只為這200多位外籍學生服務而已,他們也透過網路與海外國際穆斯林組織互動,促進交流,並和長期或短期在台灣停留的穆斯林們取得聯繫,適時給予協助。MSA便曾提供臨時來台南出差的穆斯林就業人士,在祈禱時間來臨時有個棲身之所進行禱告儀式。受訪的5位成大穆斯林學生代表異口同聲表示,成大在2016年成立祈禱室,對穆斯林在台灣生活來說,無疑是向前邁進一大步的重要成就。

          台灣人的友善讓在台灣穆斯林感到自在

          說起伊斯蘭教,民眾總有許多好奇。尤其女穆斯林的服裝穿著,炎夏艷陽下走在台南街頭,容易引人注目,投以眼光。對此,就讀成大醫學院護理系的Dewi說已經習慣了,倒是常有同學會很好奇地提問,例如問她為什麼有那麼多顏色與款式,甚至借來試穿。也會有人問她天氣這麼熱,會不會羨慕其他女同學可以穿著清涼?她回答:「真的是習慣了,所以不會感到羨慕或不自在,但這些在自己國家不會遇到的提問,真的令人覺得十分有趣!」

          在台的生活,最令穆斯林感到困擾的應該就是食物了。台灣人吃豬肉的比例比起其他肉品高出許多,然而伊斯蘭教規卻不能吃豬肉,甚至烹調過程使用的鍋具必須是沒有料理過豬肉的。很多學生就選擇自己親自下廚,洗手作羹湯,但對住在宿舍,沒有廚房的穆斯林學生來說就沒那麼容易了。畢竟,台南販賣Halal Food的餐廳真的少之又少。

          不過,台灣人的友善以及對他人信仰的尊重卻令這群穆斯林學生感到窩心。MSA會長Faizal就說:「在這裡最不方便的應該是飲食問題,但台灣的餐廳很友善,總是能配合我們提出的需求,特製我們可食用的餐點。」

          在台已經3年的Issa也分享台灣人如何友善看待穆斯林的觀察:「我有幾位在北部大學念書的朋友,因為該校沒有像成大提供祈禱室,所以友人們祈禱時間一到,會直接在宿舍的走廊上進行禱告儀式,但他們並沒有因此遭到驅趕,行經的同學不會投以異樣的眼光,也盡量不讓自己打擾到儀式進行,讓人感到十分自在。」

          穆斯林國外生活讓眼界變得更宏觀

          穆斯林總帶給人們嚴肅、端莊、守紀律的形象,然而實際接觸談天,卻能感受到他們自在與活潑。問起他們是否羨慕台灣的年輕人可以隨時開心地嬉鬧、手舞足蹈,5人全都笑開了,Issa更說:「你可以去問問我們系上,沒有人不認識我耶!因為我真的太愛跟人聊天說話了!」

          那麼對台灣人的印象呢﹖Dewi笑著說她剛來台灣時到店家買東西,常遇到台灣長輩在公共場合放大聲量碎念著,當時她總覺得台灣年長的人怎麼好像脾氣很壞,老是在咆哮罵人,後來才知道他們只是說話大聲了點,不是在生氣。

          既然如此喜歡台灣,畢業後會不會想留在台灣?畢竟都是異鄉遊子,這幾位外籍學生都選擇學成後回國為家鄉奉獻,但台灣人的親切與接納,讓他們早已將台灣視為第二個家。穆斯林學生的分享,都是來自日常生活的真實體驗與觀察,讓人更加明白,文化的差異無所不在。總要親身經歷與感受過,才能對人與人之間,乃至於種族與文化間的落差感到釋懷、一笑置之。期許他們畢業後回到自己國家,在未來保持對世界的宏觀與開闊。