Author: 
K.S. Ramkumar, Arab News
Publication Date: 
Sun, 2005-01-09 03:00

JEDDAH, 9 January 2005 — Most of the 27 members of the Taiwan Haj mission are first-timers and they are looking forward to a fulfilling experience during the annual pilgrimage.

“I’ve come here to perform Haj for the second time after 23 years and am eagerly waiting for the experience like the other members of the mission,” Dawood Ma, head of the mission, told Arab News at a reception hosted for them at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office here last night.

Ma, who is excited about his visit to Jeddah, said: “I’ve read about the expansion work in Makkah and am keen to see how the holy city looks like. Jeddah itself looks so different and is comparable to any rapidly developing modern city,” said Ma who went around the city, especially the Corniche and shopping malls on Tahlia Street and in downtown Balad since his arrival three days ago. “Jeddah is more beautiful and its beauty is further enhanced by patches of greenery,” said Ma.

The delegation consists of 13 men and 14 women. The oldest is Ming, an 87-year-old imam at one of Taiwan’s six mosques. “We give first priority to those who want to perform Haj for the first time,” Ma said, adding that the selection process is done seven months before the Haj season and all selected pilgrims are given orientation in the pilgrimage rituals, laws of the land, and the Arabic lifestyle and language.

“The Haj season lasts 26 days and it becomes difficult for young Taiwanese to embark on the journey and be away for so long, as they are all busy with their work. Additionally, the Chinese New Year falls on Feb. 6 and that explains why the mission could not be bigger than what it is,” said Ma, also known by his original name Ta-cheng Ma.

Ma is also the director of the board of directors of Chinese Muslim Association, which is involved in the propagation of Islam, teaching of Islamic precepts especially to young Muslims, and conducting summer and Ramadan camps for youth with various cultural and religious activities.

Taiwan has 60,000 Muslims, about 0.2 percent of its 23 million population. “They practice their religion freely and offer prayers at the mosques,” he said.

The Taipei Mosque in the capital city is Taiwan’s largest mosque that was built in 1960 with the support of King Faisal, and Taiwanese government and Muslims. “All Muslims in Taiwan consider this mosque as the main Islamic center,” he added.

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