Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha holy day in Taipei with eye on safety

Hundreds of Indonesian Muslims gather outside Taipei Main Station for Eid al-Adha prayers

Indonesian migrant workers pray in front of Taipei Main Station to celebrate Eid al-Adha from 8:00 a.m.

Indonesian migrant workers pray in front of Taipei Main Station to celebrate Eid al-Adha from 8:00 a.m. (Taiwan News photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Members of Taipei's Indonesian Muslim community were already lining up 6:30 a.m. at the Taipei Travel Plaza outside Taipei Main Station to get a spot in the first session of prayers on Friday (July 31), the second day of the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.

Participants wore masks and brought their own prayer mats, in accordance with the COVID-19 epidemic prevention guidelines that had been previously announced by organizers. A rectangular space had been cordoned off with traffic tape to keep people from entering the area without first having their temperature checked and hands sprayed with alcohol.

(Taiwan News photo)

PCINU Taiwan (台北市印尼服務交流協會) head Agus Susanto told Taiwan News, “Even though Taiwan has zero (local) cases, we still follow the safety protocols in order to stay cautious and protect everyone coming from all over Taipei and surrounding areas."

Susanto explained the organizers had limited the number of worshippers who could enter the prayer area at a given time, marked the ground so those in line could maintain a safe social distance, and provided masks to those who forgot to bring one. "We don’t want to miss anything and be seen negatively by the Taiwanese community,” he said.

Red marks on pavement to maintain social distance between worshippers. (Taiwan News photo)

The Eid prayers were divided into three sessions to limit the number of participants at one time. Approximately 200 to 300 took part in each session, with a different Imam leading each prayer.

The majority of prayer-goers were domestic or factory workers. When asked how they planned to celebrate the rest of the festival, some said they would immediately have to return to their workplaces.

Many had asked for permission to attend the mass morning prayer before starting their day at their employers’ houses, which is why most preferred to attend the first session. However, since there were too many for the first session, some had to wait for the next one.

One woman named Ida said, “I asked for permission to take my day off today instead of Sunday so I can celebrate the event with my friends, eat some Indonesian food, walk around, and celebrate the holiday.”

Eid al-Adha wouldn’t be complete without food, so PCINU Taiwan arranged for a small banquet, and participants were allowed to join in. “Everyone in our community is welcome, especially to celebrate such a glorious day in our religion,” said Susanto.

Participants take photos with their friends after prayer. (Taiwan News photo)

Some attendees arrived just before the last session because they were coming from New Taipei City or Taoyuan. “The morning sessions were too early, so we couldn’t make it, but we got permission to take the day off and will go to Taipei Grand Mosque as well later for our weekly Friday prayers,” one participant said.

Two male workers employed in Xinzhuang District, Tommy and Anthony, said that celebrating Eid al-Adha on a Friday is even more special, as Friday is an important day of the week for Muslims, especially men, to pray together.

Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid al-Adha until Aug. 3. They usually slaughter animals — particularly goats, sheep, or cattle – as the act of qurbani, or sacrifice, and distribute the meat to families, neighbors, and those with lower incomes.

With social distancing rules still in force in many countries, not many Muslims are fortunate enough to be able to join normal Eid prayers at mosques, or celebrate with their loved ones. Only 1,000 Muslims in Saudi Arabia have been permitted to take part in the annual Hajj (pilgrimage) in Mecca this year, while the city saw 2 million pilgrims last year.

With no local coronavirus cases reported for more than 100 days, Taiwan is one of the few countries allowing normal mass prayers, provided certain protocols are implemented.