Revisiting Islam in Japan

Preface

To present an accurate picture of Islam in Japan is an arduous task. There is a variety of aspects such as cultural, social, strategic and political to explain the status of Islam inside Japanese society. For years, I was not clear as to how to present an honest and true perspective of Islam and Muslims in Japan.

Therefore, the Japanese perspectives on Islam were divided in three parts to conduct this study. The Japanese constantly developed a civilizational dialogue with Muslims in both pre-World War period and the post-war era. Part one is the period prior to and during the World War I in which a romantic encounter appeared between the Japanese and the Muslims. Probably, Islam has little to do with the Japanese at that time, as it was a period of hard politics in world affairs. The Japanese state comprising the monarchy and an imperial army as well as public at large developed a supporting stance toward Islam and Muslims for enhancing their colonial interests.

The second period commenced right after the World War II in which Japanese accepted Western notions of Islam and Muslims. This is a reversal of their earlier perception of Islam, but they did not abandon understanding of Islam altogether. Moreover, at that time, Japan was a defeated nation. This situation continued till the oil shocks, which also forced Japanese to study Islam and revive links with Islamic countries. Japanese’s sympathy toward Islamic world was the result of such polices rather than genuinely supporting Islam and Muslims, unlike the war-time era. However, officially, Japanese policy has not been anti-Islam even during this period.

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