Saturday, May 04, 2013

Let us unite to ridicule viral emails!

Something finally inspired an update! Unfortunately it is this "Islam and Japan" thing that has been making the rounds on the Internets. A few of my friends/family have forwarded it to me with expressions of bafflement, such as "Huh?" and "What?" Perhaps it was given some credence by Tokyo mayor Inose's recent gaffe about Islamic countries in regards to his city's Olympics bid. I  would usually just ignore this kind of trolling. Taking the time to respond lends it more credibility than it deserves. But this was just so full of fail, I thought it might be fun to take it apart. 

Couple of disclaimers: First I do NOT mean to imply that there is NO discrimination against Muslims, or foreigners in general, in Japan. But I honestly do not think it is any worse here than in the USA for instance. Secondly, I am not religious at all myself, so I can't speak to the specific experience of a "person of faith" living in Japan and what prejudice or lack thereof one might encounter. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, bring on the stupid! 

"1) Japan is the only nation that does not give citizenship to Muslims."

Well, foreigners can get Japanese citizenship, but it is VERY difficult. Assuming a Muslim (or any other foreigner) was up for the challenge though, the Japanese postwar Constitution is pretty friggin' clear regarding separation of church and state: 
Article 20: Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. 2) No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious acts, celebration, rite or practice. 3) The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity. 
So basically, due to the guarantee of religious freedom, it would be illegal for the government to take religion into account at all in immigration matters. 

"2) In Japan permanent residency is not given to Muslims."  

See above. Replace "citizenship" with "permanent residency."

"3) There is a strong ban on the propagation of Islam in Japan."  

Again, see Article 20 above. Do you notice a pattern here?

"4) In the University of Japan, Arabic or any Islamic language is not taught."  

This is true, because this "University of Japan" of which the author speaks does not actually exist. Unless the author means the INTERNATIONAL University of Japan, which seems to be primarily an MBA focused school, so yeah... no Arabic studies there. There are certainly universities in Japan that offer Arabic, such as the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies which the author actually mentions below.

"5) One cannot import a 'Koran' published in the Arabic language."  

Guess Amazon Japan didn't get that memo. (Technically Arabic w/English translation, but I think it counts.)

"6) According to data published by the Japanese government, it has given temporary residency to only 2 lakhs, Muslims, who must follow the Japanese Law of the Land. These Muslims should speak Japanese and carry their religious rituals in their homes."  

Lakh as in the unit denoting 100,000? 200,000 actually sounds a bit high for the number of Muslims living in Japan. Anyway, um, yeah... generally when one goes to live in another country it is customary to follow that country's laws. But there is no law that says foreigners must speak Japanese to live in Japan. Many do not. There are also actual Mosques in Japan, so Muslims can actually carry out their worship and "rituals" in places other than the secrecy of their own homes. 

"7) Japan is the only country in the world that has a negligible number of embassies in Islamic countries." 

 Guess it depends on how you define "negligible," but you can see a list of Japanese embassies here. As you can see Islamic countries are well represented. 

"8) Japanese people are not attracted to Islam at all." 

Unlike the author of this inane list, I would not presume to speak on behalf of THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF JAPAN, but I will say that a number of my colleagues at Tohoku U. were actively studying Islam academically. So I guess they felt attracted to it. 

9) Muslims residing in Japan are the employees of foreign companies. 

Weird... I would swear the JAPANESE university where I work had hired some Muslim lecturers from abroad. I must have imagined it. 

10) Even today, visas are not granted to Muslim doctors, engineers or managers sent by foreign companies. 

Again, that pesky Article 20 of the Japanese Constitution! Anyway, plenty of engineering researchers at my university from Islamic countries. By gosh, I bet a few of them are Muslim too!

"11) In the majority of companies it is stated in their regulations that no Muslims should apply for a job." 

Well, I do not have time to check the HR policy of each and every Japanese company, but I can say that none of the half dozen or so Japanese companies/schools I have worked for had any such policy. 

"12) The Japanese government is of the opinion that Muslims are fundamentalist and even in the era of globalization they are not willing to change their Muslim laws."  

Again, because of Article 20 of the Japanese constitution, it would be ILLEGAL for the government to take such a position.

"13) Muslims cannot even think about renting a house in Japan."  

In parts of Japan, sadly, it is hard for any foreigner, regardless of religion, to rent a house/apt. But this is rare from what I've seen. Most landlords don't care about your race/creed very much as long as your money is green and you can produce a credible guarantor to co-sign your lease (which even native Japanese must do). 

"14) If anyone comes to know that his neighbour is a Muslim then the whole neighbourhood stays alert."  

Might be true in some rural, backwoods parts of Japan. But for the most part, the majority of gainfully employed citizens have better things to do than keep tabs on what faiths their neighbors are practicing. I am surprised our scholar here didn't get the memo that Japanese people are BUSY. "Karoshi" isn't a Japanese loanword for nothing.

"15) No one can start an Islamic cell or Arabic 'Madrasa' in Japan. There is no Sharia law in Japan."  

Of course there is no national Sharia in Japan, again because Article 20 would forbid it. Similarly there is no longer a compulsory Buddhist Danka registration requirement. However, individuals are free to follow Sharia, or dress up as Hello Kitty, giant teddy bears, or anime characters, as they see fit. Because Japan is a free country, a point which the author seems to have missed.  As for there being no Isalmic schools in Japan... 

"16) If a Japanese woman marries a Muslim then she is considered an outcast forever."  

Depends on her family and how open-minded they are. Sure, some particularly conservative families might reject their son/daughter for marrying someone of a foreign religion or race. But this is also true of the U.S. and A. 

"17) According to Mr. Kumiko Yagi, Professor of Arab/Islamic Studies at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies , "There is a mind frame in Japan that Islam is a very narrow minded religion and one should stay away from it."  

Leaving aside for a moment the fact that Prof. Kumiko Yagi is a "Ms.", not "Mr." it is true that Japanese are not exactly flocking to Islam, but they are not flocking to any other religions either. Japan is a very secular country. Most people identify themselves as having no religion, or at best follow religious customs in form only, with little reflection on spiritual content. 


Finally something I can agree with! Yes, I have met a lot of very intelligent, kind Japanese in my 15+ years of living and working here. They are definitely NOT the bunch of bigots living in a totalitarian state, as described in this steaming poo of a viral e-mail.

I work at a student exchange office at Tohoku U. We accept exchange students from Indonesia, UAE, Egypt, Pakistan etc. and I assume at least of few of them are Muslim. I have never sensed any dislike, suspicion, or different treatment of any student based on religion from the Japanese staff or instructors. On the whole I think the Japanese are far more concerned with getting the economy back on track and the expansion of Chinese military power in Asia than they are with "keeping the Muslims out." 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yay! Excellent, well-informed response. Thanks!