Taiwan opens up space for Muslim fishermen’s religious activities

As the number of migrant workers is growing in Taiwan, more have been done by civil society and the authority to cater to their needs holistically. There has been much discussion and actions to improve the human rights and working conditions of migrant workers. Amongst the different actions, one of them is the designation of reserved space for the religious activities of Muslim fishermen.

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According to the National Development Council of Taiwan, the number of migrant workers has reached a record high of 728,000 as at November 2022. Migrant workers in Taiwan can be divided into two main categories, i.e., industrial workers and caretakers. 

In the industrial sectors, around 13,000 migrant workers work in the local fishing industry, while 26,000 migrant fishermen are hired to work on vessels which fish in international waters, making this group one of the largest foreign communities in Taiwan.  Most of the migrant fishermen come from Indonesia.

Maritime Fairtrade visited two newly established mosques built specially for Muslim fishermen, which are located on the northern coast of Taiwan where fishing ports are most densely distributed. There are altogether 230 fishing ports in Taiwan with 34 of them nestled along the northern coast, which stretches across both New Taipei City and Keelung City.

One of the mosques can be found in Port of Su’ao. Inside the white façade and wooden door are a prayer room covered in green carpet, a small area for socializing, and shower facilities.  On the right-hand side of the room, a wardrobe holds headgears and sarongs, which the migrant fishermen can borrow for praying. There is also a bookshelf with reading materials in Indonesian.

“All the Islamic decorations were done by the Muslim fishermen themselves,” said Rerum Novarum Center of Taipei’s social worker Jason Lee, who advocates for the rights of migrant fishermen. 

The fishing port in Su’ao, on the northern coast of Taiwan.
Mosque in Su’ao.
Prayer area.
Songkoks, a type of headgear, and sarongs, used during praying.
Space for socializing. 

Moving southward along the northern coast, a bigger mosque can be found at Badouzi fishing port in Keelung, with a bookshelf full of religious books, lockers, numerous Islamic symbols on the wall, and a lectern, microphones and speakers for holding religious ceremonies. A migrant fisherman told Maritime Fairtrade they usually take turns leading the ceremonies.

“The delicate Islamic symbols were all painted by the fishermen. The decorations and the equipment were sourced by themselves,” said Lee.

Social worker Jason Lee said volunteers are running the mosque at Badouzi and they are now looking to crowd-fund for upgrading of the physical premise, buying more equipment and meeting the emergency needs of the migrant fishermen.

Badouzi fishing port.
Badouzi fishing port.
A mosque at Badouzi fishing port in Keelung.
Lockers for the use of migrant fishermen and a book shelf with religious books.
A blackboard showing the financial records.
Volunteers at the mosque.

Top photo: Muslim migrant fishermen praying in the evening at the Badouzi fishing port mosque.

All photos credit: Patricia Cheung

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