In 1970, there were only 2 mosques in all of Japan, now there are over 200. The Tokyo Mosque, despite the grand Turkish design, the mosque hides between apartment blocks in the quiet residential neighbourhood of Yoyogi Uehara.
Al-Jazeera Construction of the current incarnation of the mosque was completed in 2000, but the mosque has a much longer history. It was in the 1930s when Japan first saw a significant resident Muslim population and the first mosques were established. The Nagoya Mosque was built in 1931 and the Kobe Mosque in 1935 by Indian-Muslim migrants.
Tatar Muslim migrants escaping the Russian revolution made up the largest ethnic group in Japan by the 1930s and established the original Tokyo Mosque in 1938.
Hans Martin Kramer, a professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Heidelberg and an expert on religion in Japan, considers this to be the most prominent mosque in Japan, one that was “not only supported by the Japanese government, but also financed by Japanese companies, most notably Mitsubishi, and its opening ceremony was attended by dignitaries and diplomats from both Japan and the Islamic World”.
While the Tokyo Mosque does not have the same support and contacts with Japanese government and large conglomerates in contemporary times, the mosque was rebuilt using funds from the Turkish government and is both a religious venue and an ethno-cultural space hosting wedding ceremonies, fashion shows, plays, exhibitions and conferences.
Marriage and conversion
Away from the tourists, marble floors and ornate interiors in a small alley around the corner from Tokyo Mosque is Dr Musa Omer at the Yuai International School. The school is loud, unpretentious, chaotic and teeming with children. It is a Saturday and the school has activities and classes from 10am until 8pm. While the leadership at the school is looking towards offering full-time education in the near-future, it is currently limited to offering Saturday classes ranging from Islamic studies and Arabic, to karate and calligraphy.
The school is run by the Islamic Centre of Japan (ICJ), a post-WWII Muslim institution established in 1966. Omer – an advisor to the Saudi Ambassador and who has twice served as the Sudanese Ambassador to Japan – is its acting chairman.
On this day, Omer is preparing to marry a young couple in his small office – a Saudi man and a Japanese woman.
In a brief interlude, the woman is asked whether this is her first introduction to Islam, and she replies that it isn’t. Her relationship with the Saudi man started online two years ago and they decided to get married. Omer, with long-established links to the Saudi embassy, was contacted to assist the couple in arranging the wedding.
As the Japanese bride converts, she joins a tiny group of Japanese Muslims. In the absence of official statistics on Muslims in Japan, demographic estimates range from between 70,000 to 120,000 Muslim residents with about 10 percent of that number being Japanese, in a country with an overall population of more than 127 million.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the population of foreign workers in Japan has nearly doubled in the last 20 years, and reached more than two million at the end of 2011.
Distribution of Muslims in Japan by country of origin
Yoshio Sugimoto describes how the population of foreign workers, which includes Muslims from Pakistan and Bangladesh for example, increased in the late 1980s and early ’90s as visa waiver programmes were introduced by the Japanese government to address an ageing workforce and a shortage of labour.
Omer, on the other hand, came to study architecture on a Japanese Embassy scholarship in 1970 after founding the Japan-Sudan Friendship Society in 1964 in Khartoum, Sudan. He speaks with pride at how Islam has grown and laid institutional foundations in Japan.
Jihad in Japan, too
Omer is an influential figure in the institutionalisation in post-WWII Japan with deep roots in the country, privileged position as a former diplomat, and contacts in the Gulf. He has helped various groups raise funds to establish mosques and institutions. Despite that, the Islamic Centre of Japan itself does not have a mosque of its own.
Activities for children in the school, which was established in 2011, are far more important than a mosque, he says. “You can pray anywhere.”
The ICJ has had to cut its annual spending by almost half since the early 1990s, and currently only employs one full-time staff member, down from 25, with its funds coming primarily from donations by individuals in the Gulf.
Some researchers have highlighted negative stereotypes of Islam that Muslims have been confronted with in Japan since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
Despite the Tokyo Metropolitan Police being absolved of any wrongdoing by the Tokyo District Court in January, the UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concerns in a recent report about the systematic surveillance of Muslims and mosques in Japan.
“Police stationed agents at mosques, followed individuals to their homes, obtained their names and addresses from alien registration records, and compiled databases profiling more than 70,000 individuals,” according to an article in the Asia-Pacific Journal Japan Focus. “In some cases, the police actually installed surveillance cameras at mosques and other venues.”
While Islam may not have the same footprint in Japan as other religions such as Buddhism and Christianity, knowledge of it and the Prophet Muhammad here can be traced back to the 8th century.
Serious and sustained engagement with the Muslim world began for Japan as a part of its global outreach in the early Meiji period (1868-1890), with trade and information gathering missions sailing towards the Ottoman Empire and the Middle East.
Verifiable accounts of Muslims entering Japan can be placed in the same period with records of Indian merchants and Malay-Indian sailors working in ports in the Japanese cities of Yokohama and Kobe.
The Tokyo Mosque, Omer, the Islamic Centre of Japan, and the children of the Islamic school are the contemporary chapter of this old and under-researched history of Islam and Japan.
On the one week anniversary of the dumping of the federal Parliament’s burqa-ban, three men in costumes have attempted to enter Parliament dressed in various controversial garb. The costumes include a KKK hood, niqab and a helmet. The three men from the group ‘Faceless’ said they wanted to see the burqa and all facial coverings banned.
PARLIAMENT BACKS DOWN ON BURQA BAN
NEWS AU (h/t Bern) Just a week after the burqa ban was overturned, the trio had to identify themselves to security. “It’s fantastic that we were not allowed in,” one of them said, praising security.
According to 2GB reporter Stephanie Borys, who is at the scene, the three men were asked to take their coverings off. When they did, a black headress was revealed underneath. A large security presence, including AFP officers and parliament security have reportedly handled it well.
The three men allegedly plan to target a bank next. When asked how it would make Muslim women feel, they said they “couldn’t care less”, and wanted all burqas banned, full stop.
“It seems that you’re allowed to wear a full face covering into Parliament if you’re a Muslim woman but no other group is allowed to have that same privilege,” Sergio Redegalli said, wearing the KKK outfit.
Their head coverings were confiscated by security and handed back on departure. The next time another group is asked to identify themselves at a security point “it may be too late,” he added. “They’re already in Parliament.
“No one should be walking up the public forecourt or in the public domain hidden from sight.” The burqa should be banned for security and cultural reasons, the group argued.
Protestors say they weren’t allowed to wear niqab inside Parliament because they aren’t Muslim women. Media unable to witness security check.
After passing security and entering the Marble Foyer of Parliament House the trio left. “The reason we didn’t go any further was there is a memorial for Gough Whitlam. “The last thing we wanted to do was to interrupt that, there’s just certain things you don’t cross.”
Mr Redegalli said he has always been a voting Liberal. “They’re going to choke in there when they hear that.”
It is NOT an anti-immigration rally, it is a protest against Muslim illegal alien immigration forced on Italy by the EU. Time to stop all Muslim immigration. Time to get out of the EU which is destroying Western civilization by flooding EU countries with Muslim legal and illegal invaders.
RT (h/t Maria J) Thousands of people took to the streets of Milan on Saturday as anti-Muslim immigration demonstrators from the right-wing Lega Nord party were confronted by an anti-racism rally. (What ‘race’ is Islam?)
Crowds of Lega Nord (Northern League) supporters joined the party leaders, carrying “Stop Invasion” banners. The protest was aimed against illegal Muslim immigration and the Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) operation – a special search and rescue program launched in Italy last year to save Muslim invaders lost at sea.