TAIPEI – The recent opening of a restaurant specialized in selling pig’s trotters at the gate of a local mosque near the capital of Taiwan has caused a stir among some Muslim faithful, who despite saying that they were offended by the shop peddling an animal product considered filthy in Islam, have shown considerable tolerance toward the establishment.
The Wanjia Pig Feet Restaurant opened at the entrance to the Long Gang Mosque located in Taoyuan County outside Taipei. The temple, one of the island-nation’s only eight mosques, is a place for Taiwanese and foreign Muslims to pray and socialize, as documented by the efe-epa photojournalist.
In late December, the restaurant moved into a first-floor unit – which used to be a noodle shop – and began selling pig feet (a delicacy for Taiwanese), clearly oblivious to the taboo status of pork in Islam.
The restaurant, where workers boil the pettitoes in pots and display them in trays, faces the street in full view of Muslims visiting the mosque.
To lure customers in, the restaurant set up a huge sign with a logo featuring a smiling pig. It also installed a smaller sign, showing only the logo with the happy porcine, but on the same steel bar bearing a vertical sign with the words “Long Gang Mosque” written in Chinese, English and Arabic.
“I usually enter the mosque through the back gate. So when I heard that a pig feet restaurant was doing business at our front gate, and fixed its pig logo underneath the signboard of our mosque, I was shocked,” Ali Ibrahim Ma Bing-hua, the mosque’s deputy imam, told efe-epa.
“Many Muslims were angry, but to keep the peace, I did not ask them to move away, because I have no right to stop them from doing business,” he added.
Ma approached the restaurant owner to make two demands.
“First, they must remove the smiling pig logo from the steel bar which was set up by us to hang the sign of the mosque. Second, they should try to reduce kitchen smoke because it flows into our mosque and makes Muslims nauseous,” he said.
Miss Huang, the restaurant’s owner, at first claimed she could not remove the smiling pig logo until the end of January because removal workers were busy. The logo was eventually removed earlier this week.
She has yet to cut kitchen smoke and said she was not planning on moving away from the mosque because she did not think there was anything wrong with selling pork in its vicinity.
Some Taiwanese have criticized the restaurant owner for insulting Muslims, saying the restaurant owner displayed ignorance and insensitivity and stressing that the mosque had been there for over half a century.
But some other bloggers claim that everyone has the right to make money anywhere they want, or even go as far as condemning Islam as a violent religion.
“Beware – violent Muslims will knock on your door,” one blogger wrote, despite there never being the slightest hint of violence over the controversy.
Muslims are a religious minority in Taiwan, where most people are Buddhists and Taoists. There have been very few conflicts between Muslims and the Han Chinese as Taiwan is known for its prevalent religious harmony.
There are some 60,000 local Muslims who are originally from mainland China, and about 300,000 foreign Muslims, mainly Indonesian workers and maids as well as businessmen, diplomats and students from other countries.