During the weekend of July 18 and 19, many Indonesians residing in Taiwan observed Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the end of the holy month of fasting called Ramadan. They held celebrations in public areas including Taipei Railway Station and 228 Memorial Park as well as in major mosques across the country.
Many Taiwanese enjoyed the colorful festival scene, something that would be difficult to imagine only a few years ago.
In 2012, the Taiwan Railways Administration surrounded the Indonesians who were celebrating the Eid al-Fitr inside the Taipei Railway Station and urged them to disperse with loudspeakers. Rather than speaking up for the minority group, most mainstream media outlets condemned what they called an abusive use of public space. The Indonesian community felt discriminated against.
Several NGOs that provide support for migrant workers protested against the Taiwan Railways Administration, hoping that authorities would show more respect for Indonesian Muslims. Yet, the same conflict happened again in 2013.
The situation improved in 2014 as the new chief of Taipei Railway Station worked hand-in-hand with NGOs and the Indonesian community to prepare for the festival. Not only was Eid al-Fitr celebrated without controversy, the event also served to educate Taiwanese on understanding their Muslim friends’ religion and culture.
Currently, about 250,000 Indonesians live in Taiwan. About 230,000 are staying for their work, while 20,000 have immigrated permanently to Taiwan.
This year, in addition to the Taipei Railway Station, there were more well-prepared festival sites. The Department of Labor in Taipei prepared the event venue in nearby 228 Memorial Park, and five major mosques across Taiwan also hosted Eid al-Fitr celebration .
4-Way Voice, a newspaper devoted to migrant workers from Southeast Asia, reported on the celebration at Taipei station:
許多印尼移工在活動結束又得匆匆趕回去工作，有更多移工因為交通、工作關係，無法前來一起來和同鄉過新年；不論身在何方，四方報也祝所有穆斯林讀者開齋節快樂！Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri！
Many Indonesian workers needed to return to their work after the event in a hurry. More could not celebrate the new year with their fellow Indonesians either because transportation or work. However, no matter where our Muslim readers are, 4-way Voice wishes all our readers have a happy Eid al-Fitr. Selamat Hari Raya Idul Fitri.
Tien-Wan Chang, who employs an Indonesian domestic helper, took the opportunity to thank her on Facebook:
Hope all Indonesian workers who work very hard have a good day. […] They play an important role in the caring service sector in Taiwan. Without them, 480,000 families with bedridden elderly could not survive. We are also lucky to have an angel in our family in recent years: she took care of me after I received a surgery, she took care of my father-in-law until he passed away, and she takes care of my bedridden mother-in-law. She helps my mother-in-law to turn around in bed, takes care of her nasogastric tube, and bathes her.[…] Today is Eid al-Fitr. I hope they enjoy the holiday, and I want to thank them.
Chih-An Chen, who also employs an Indonesian domestic helper, described how she celebrated Eid al-Fitr with her helper:
Ramadan this year is from 6/18 to 7/17 for Muslims worldwide, and there is no exception for A-Ting, the helper in our family. She could not eat or drink after sunrise. She told us that she cannot eat before 18:50. It has been very hot in this month, and we kept sweating even without moving around. It is hard work for her to bring my father to receive rehabilitation by the rehabilitation bus on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and bring him to stroll around on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. It is close to the end of Ramadan, and soon they will have Eid al-Fitr, the new year in Indonesia and an important holiday for Muslims. Today (7/16) she said she wants to buy new clothes, so I went shopping with her and she had a haircut.
Spice-up Tasat, a group of non-Taiwanese spouses from different Southeast Asian countries, hold regular gatherings to share different cuisines from their hometowns. They prepared ketupat, the traditional Indonesian food for Eid al-Fitr, on July 17:
Ketupat is a traditional Indonesian cuisine. We weave fresh green coconut leaves into a diamond shape. Then we put rice into it and broil it. The rice will expand gradually and bind together closely after being pressed. When we eat it, we cut it into pieces and eat with sate, curry, or soup like soto ayam.
Although we eat at ordinary times, many traditional Muslims make special ketupat as gifts in Eid al-Fitr.
Some people said that the Javanese of ketupat is kupat, which means admitting the mistake, so it may be meant to reflect on ourselves and forgive others if we give ketupat as gifts to others in Eid al-Fitr.
“Maybe what is more important is bringing people together. The complicated weaving of ketupat represents how different people are integrated together beautifully,” Lily said.
In a country with more than 13,000 islands, 360 ethnic groups and 719 dialects, it does not matter so much if we call it ketupat, kupat, or tipat or what their meaning is.
What matters is that Ramadan is finished, and the new year begins with the crescent moon.