President Tsai Ing-wen says the presence of the Muslim faith in Taiwan is an indispensable power for promoting the New Southbound Policy. Tsai was speaking on Monday while receiving a group of Muslims who had just completed the Hajj pilgrimage – one of the five pillars of Islam.
The New Southbound Policy is a Tsai administration initiative which aims to build closer economic and cultural ties with Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Tsai said Islam is one of the most influential religions in the world and that there are many faithful in Taiwan. She said on weekends, she is seeing more and more Taiwanese people interact with Muslims at the Taipei Train Station, a popular gathering place for migrant workers, many of whom are Muslims from Indonesia.
Tsai said she hopes Taiwan will become a more Muslim-friendly place so that adherents can feel more at home. The government has set up prayer rooms at traffic hubs like the airport and bus stations, and issued certification to halal restaurants to attract more Muslim customers.
Tsai said she hopes that there will be more exchanges between Taiwan and the Islamic world.
"The goal of the New Southbound Policy is to push for more multi-cultural exchanges and cooperation," said Tsai. "All of you here today are the perfect bridge between Taiwan and the Muslim world. I hope that more people will join your ranks in the future, to help build a bigger and longer bridge to enable more Taiwanese people and our Muslim friends take part in the exchanges and build friendships.”
The president said she hopes she will have the opportunity to join in more Muslim events and festivities in the future.