Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country

Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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The interior of Tokyo Camii or Tokyo Mosque. (Shutterstock)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Muslim tourists eating Halal certified foods at a barbecue restaurant in Tokyo. (AFP)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Abdulaziz Alforieh, a Saudi who has lived in Japan for 12 years, left, and translator Furat Bantan, who has been in the country for 13 years, right. (Supplied)
Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited on Sunday Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum during his trip in Japan. (SPA)
Updated 01 July 2019

Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country

Japan-Islam ties in focus as Saudi Crown Prince tours G20 host country
  • A turning point was the Bolshevik Revolution, when Turko-Tatar Muslims fleeing Russia were given asylum
  • What the Muslim community lacks in numbers, it makes up for with spirit and activities

TOKYO: Furat Bantan is a Saudi translator who has been working in Japan for the past 13 years. He says his life’s goal is simple: To become one of the best Arab translators of the Japanese language and eventually to become a bridge between the Arab world and Japan.
Bantan is currently a translator for the embassy of Lebanon, having earlier worked for the Arab Islamic Institute of Tokyo. The institute, which is an affiliate of the Al-Imam Mohammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, was a gift to Japan from the Saudi government with the hope it would help to build cultural ties and foster understanding of Arabic culture.
“I want to deepen my understanding of Japanese culture and religion so that I can relate to their way of thinking and become able to convey Islamic teaching in a way that they accept and understand,” Bantan told Arab News.
Islam is one of the most practiced religions in the world, with the Pew Research Center putting the number of Muslims at about 1.6 billion worldwide. Islam also has one of the highest growth rates of all the world’s faiths, with the Pew survey projecting that the number will rise to 2.8 billion in 2050.
However, the Japanese Muslim community is very small compared to the Muslim populations of many other East Asian countries. Although the exact size remains a matter of speculation, official studies have put it at 100,000-185,000, which for a country of 126.8 million people does seem tiny. Put differently, Muslims make up less than 0.1 percent of Japan’s population.
What Muslims in Japan lack in numbers, however, they make up for with spirit. A number of organizations are dedicated to preserving Islamic traditions and providing religious services. Among the more prominent ones are the Japan Islamic Trust, the Islamic Center of Japan, and the Nippon Asia Halal Association.
There are more than 200 mosques scattered across the country, ranging in size from large, elaborate structures such as the Tokyo Camii in the Shibuya district of the city to small prayer rooms in universities and public-transport facilities.

MAINMOSQUES

● Kobe Mosque, Kobe

● Tokyo Camii, Tokyo

● Okachimachi Mosque, Tokyo

● Otsuka Mosque, Tokyo

● Nagoya Masjid, Nagoya

● Dar Al-Arqam Masjid, Tokyo

In recent years, Indonesian Muslims in Japan have been organizing donations and collecting funds to build small mosques in apartment buildings and offices in rural areas for the benefit of Muslims who live outside the larger metropolitan centers.
The Arab Islamic Institute of Tokyo, where Bantan used to work, provides free Arabic classes to Japanese citizens interested in learning the language. More people are interested in taking the classes than one might imagine, he told Arab News, adding that “Japanese people are a lot more curious about Islam in today’s political climate.”
Bantan said he has seen many Japanese embrace Islam after being exposed to the lessons and cultural guidance of the local Islamic organizations. “In my time with the Arab Islamic Institute, I would see two to three people a week coming in to take their shahadah,” he said, refering to the Muslim profession of faith.
“We even have Japanese Islamic preachers now, experts on Islam who are having an impact on bringing their own people into the fold.”

The reason Japan’s Muslims form a small demographic today has a lot to do with the way Islam reached the country. The religious history of Japan is very different from that of most other East Asian countries, notably China, where Islam has been practiced for more than 1,400 years as a result of efforts by Prophet Muhammad’s Companions to visit China for trade and to spread the message of Islam.

Ibn Khordadbeh, a Persian geographer, is believed to have been the first person to bring Islam to Japan as early as the 9th century. However, the Muslim population gained significance only after the Bolshevik Revolution, when Turko-Tatar Muslims fleeing Russia were given asylum in Japan. These refugees later came into contact with the local population, resulting in a number of Japanese choosing to convert to Islam.




The interior of Tokyo Camii or Tokyo Mosque. 

An important event in the history of Islam in Japan was the completion of the translation of the Holy Qur’an in 1968 by Umar Mita, a Japanese Muslim whose original name was Ryoichi Mita. With the approval of the Muslim World League in Makkah, the Japanese Qur’an was first published in 1972.
Modern Japan has extensive business relations with the Islamic world. The volume of annual trade between Japan and Saudi Arabia alone is currently worth $26.67 billion. For Saudi Arabia, Japan is the top global export destination, the second-largest source of foreign capital and the third-biggest trading partner.
But how easy or difficult is life for a Muslim in Japan today? As a Saudi immigrant who has lived in Japan for almost 12 years now, Abdulaziz Alforieh knows the pros and cons well. He received a master’s degree from the Nippon Institute of Technology and elected to live on in Japan. He runs a company with local partners.
Alforieh said he has had no bad experience due to his faith, which he thinks is because Japanese are not the kind to openly discuss topics such as religion with strangers or casual acquaintances.
“If they are aware that you observe a certain type of religion, they are very respectful of it, whether they approve of it internally or not. If I’m out in public and I need to find a corner to pray in, no one minds,” Alforieh told Arab News.
It is rather difficult to find halal food, he said, although speaking Japanese can make a big difference. “It is difficult to find English-language speakers outside of tourist areas,” he said. “But as long as you can communicate with the locals, finding Muslim-friendly food is that much easier.”
One thing that Alforieh has noticed is that Japanese media outlets tend to focus on the more misunderstood aspects of Islam. These topics stir a lot of interest but do nothing to educate the audience, he said, referring to the taboo against eating pork or drinking alcohol (two staples of Japanese cuisine) and the idea that every Saudi man has four wives.
“But we all do our part to correct those misconceptions, and hope we can make an impact,” he said.
Regarding observing Ramadan in Japan, Alforieh saidd he finds it easier to fast there than back in Saudi Arabia. “Every company I’ve worked for has been Muslim-friendly,” he said. “Colleagues became interested in fasting after seeing me do it and tried it out for themselves. Being busy at work makes time fly. I hardly even notice it.
“I miss the atmosphere of celebrating Eid with my family, though. Despite the best efforts of the Islamic community, it just doesn’t feel the same here as it does back home.”
As Muslims, Alforieh and Bantan, the translator, each have a message for the people of Japan. “Everything you do pays off. Keep trying to put good out into the world,” Alforieh said.
For his part, Bantan said: “Read about Islam. Educate yourselves. Don’t just listen to what the media or people around you are saying.”


Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says
  • In observance of Friday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Al-Awwad said the Kingdom is making significant and constant efforts
  • Al-Awwad wants to criminalize and combat human trafficking through a set of actions and measures that ensure human dignity

RIYADH: Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, president of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said Saudi Arabia is keen to protect and promote human rights.

Al-Awwad also wants to criminalize and combat human trafficking through a set of actions and measures that ensure human dignity and protect it from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

In observance of Friday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Al-Awwad said the Kingdom is making significant and constant efforts to combat human trafficking through the establishment of the Saudi National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

The committee enacts regulations and legislation that ensure protecting victims and safeguarding their rights on a local and global level.

Not only did the Kingdom issue regulations and legislation to combat human trafficking, but it was also keen to make the necessary efforts to enforce them, Al-Awwad said.


Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization
Updated 5 min 34 sec ago

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

RIYADH: The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance has reopened seven mosques in four regions that were temporarily closed for cleaning after coronavirus disease infections were confirmed among worshippers.

The ministry said on Thursday that two mosques were reopened in Riyadh, two in Qassim, two in Hail, and one in the Eastern Province.

Coronavirus infections have led to the closure of 1,909 mosques in the Kingdom in the past 173 days. The mosques were reopened after cleaning measures were completed.

The ministry urged worshippers and employees to follow precautionary measures, including wearing face masks, using their own prayer mats and maintaining social distancing.


21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 31 min 4 sec ago

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

JEDDAH: Twenty-one members of a Yemen-based team of Saudi and foreign mine clearance experts have lost their lives over three years operating in what has become known as the world’s largest minefield.

The tragic death toll was revealed in figures showing the scale of the project being carried out in the war-torn country in cooperation with local Yemeni teams under the umbrella of the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (Masam).

Launched by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) on June 25, 2018, the initiative has so far cost $133 million, Masam’s director, Osama Al-Gosaibi, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

He said the project’s field teams had dismantled 263,797 landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other deadly explosive devices. Since the start of the program up until July 23 this year, bomb squads dealt with 169,792 unexploded ordnances, 83,943 anti-tank mines, and 3,984 anti-personnel mines covering 25 million square meters of Yemeni territories.

The Yemen government said that the Iran-backed Houthis had planted more than 1 million landmines in the country since the start of the conflict in 2015, turning it into the most-mined nation since World War II.

KSrelief recently extended the Masam contract for another year, at a cost of $33.6 million. The project is carried out by Saudi and international experts through Yemeni teams that have been trained to remove all kinds of mines planted randomly by Houthi militias.

Al-Gosaibi pointed out that one of the main challenges faced by the teams was having to work without maps indicating the location of mines. In many cases they had to rely on local residents identifying suspected mined areas, which significantly slowed the clearance process, he added.

KSrelief’s general supervisor, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, said that the renewal of the Masam contract with the executive partner was, “out of the center’s sense of humanitarian responsibility toward the Yemeni brothers.”

He added: “It is extremely important to clear the Yemeni territories of the mines that Houthi militias manufactured and planted in a random, unpredicted, and camouflaged manner and that have caused permanent disabilities and injuries and human losses, including women, children, and seniors.”

According to statistics published by the Yemeni Observatory on Landmines in March, devices planted by Houthis in Taiz alone had killed and injured 3,263 civilians since 2015.

Data from the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, also known as the Rasd Coalition, showed 1,929 civilians, including 357 children and 146 women, have been killed in the past six years, and 2,242 civilians, including 519 children and 167 women, were disabled due to landmines.

During that same period, the coalition documented the destruction and damage of more than 2,872 public and private facilities in several Yemeni governorates, all due to anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.


Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus

Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus

Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus
  • Authorities report 1,289 new coronavirus cases, 1,299 recoveries, 12 deaths

JEDDAH: More than 26 million people in Saudi Arabia have now received a coronavirus vaccine, including almost 1.5 million elderly people, the Saudi Ministry of Health announced on Thursday.

However, the ministry repeated its message that a second vaccine dose is necessary to achieve the highest levels of immunity, especially amid the emergence of the delta variant.

First dose ppointments are now available for those aged between 12 and 18 in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry said.

People who have recovered from a coronavirus infection are now also able to complete two doses of the vaccine, with the possibility of receiving the first dose 10 days after the end of an infection.

The change was introduced following the release of medical studies that demonstrated the safety of the procedure.

The ministry said that the Kingdom’s nationwide vaccine rollout is moving forward as planned, and urged people to register to receive vaccines through the Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Thursday reported 12 more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the Kingdom’s death toll to 8,212.

There were 1,289 new cases, meaning that 523,397 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 11,358 cases remain active, of which 1,395 are in critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 260 were in the Makkah region, 253 in the Riyadh region, 220 in the Eastern Province and 63 in the Madinah region.

In addition, the ministry said that 1,299 patients recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 503,827.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 24,800,706 PCR tests, with 117,620 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Taakad (make sure) centers provide coronavirus testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to people with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for either service can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.


Saudi FM meets French president’s diplomatic adviser

Saudi FM meets French president’s diplomatic adviser
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi FM meets French president’s diplomatic adviser

Saudi FM meets French president’s diplomatic adviser

PARIS: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan met on Thursday with the French president’s top diplomatic adviser, Emmanuel Bonne, at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed strong Saudi-French relations and bilateral diplomatic ties, and ways to enhance them to serve common interests.

They also discussed the most prominent developments in the regional and international arenas.

The meeting was attended by the Saudi ambassador to France, Fahd bin Maayouf Al-Ruwaily, and the director general of the Saudi foreign minister’s office, Abdulrahman Al-Daoud.