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A Reality Check on Islam in Japan

US Rightwing Propaganda

SNA (Tokyo) — The US debate about Muslims and terrorism has become so extreme that it seems almost any claim, no matter how farfetched and at variance with the facts, can gain wide traction so long as it corresponds with popular prejudices. One recurring meme that illustrates this tendency is the notion that terrorism does not exist in Japan, and the reason is that the Japanese have adopted strict measures to keep Muslims out of the country.

These notions promoted mainly by US conservatives are simply wrong on so many levels that it almost seems pointless to address such ignorant and lazy-minded arguments.

Nevertheless, just to briefly note how the entire argument is based on false premises, perhaps it might be worthwhile to highlight just a few salient facts:

—While it is true that Japan resists large-scale immigration from abroad, there is no particular anti-Muslim slant to these policies. Some Muslims do immigrate to Japan, and they can become Japanese citizens by the very same processes as any other foreigner.

—There are no special restrictions placed on Islam or any other major faith. This is a country with real freedom of religion. If anything, national and local governments and businesses are now starting to pay serious attention to Muslim customers by offering halal food options and prayer rooms in airports, etc.

—There are dozens of mosques throughout Japan. The total number isn’t clearly known, but it would not be surprising if there were now more than one hundred nationally. Most, of course, are quite modest in size.

—Japan never asks residents to declare their religious identity in any official documents including censuses, so the actual number of Muslim residents cannot be known with precision. However, it is now almost certainly in excess of 50,000 and probably over 100,000.

—In addition to Muslim residents, a visit to any major tourist location these days will show you that tourism from Muslim countries is booming as well. Women in hijab are not an uncommon sight in these places. More than 400,000 people from Malaysia and Indonesia alone have visited Japan this year as tourists.

From the above facts it should already be clear that the US conservative meme that Japan has no terrorism because this country doesn’t allow Muslims to come here is utter nonsense.

A more thorough deconstruction of the argument could move on to other issues such as the false contention that terrorism “does not exist” in Japan. Just to offer one reminder, Japan remains the only country that has experienced a non-state terrorist attack utilizing “weapons of mass destruction”—the Aum Shinrikyo sarin attacks in the mid-1990s.

But let the above be sufficient to demonstrate how lazy, ignorant, and easily disprovable some of the arguments now circulating among US conservatives have truly become.

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