Macey Malone wrote in goodmenproject.com:
The world stereotypes the people of faith in so many ways; Muslims, Christians, Jews and judge them in one way or another: Muslims = terrorists, Jews = stingy, Christians = homophobes.
However, there has been an increasing number of initiatives around the world that aim to promote understanding of religions in recent years — especially Islam. While the faith may have originated in the Arabian Peninsula, it has spread to all corners of the world.
All religions of the world are a foundation for morals and beliefs that helps shape society in positive ways. In fact, Islam has enormous potential to address social problems — racism, inequality, and gender disparity among many others. People have been more understanding towards Islam and this makes it one of the fastest-growing religions in the world.
As a matter of fact, in the East Asian country, Japan, almost 112,000 to 230,000 people have been accepting Islam making it one of the countries where the religion is growing rapidly. Despite Japan not being welcoming to Muslims in the past, in the last few years, they have become more accepting in terms of understanding a different faith/culture than theirs. The Muslims in Japan come from diverse backgrounds — nationality, ethnicity, culture, lifestyle, etc. Some Japanese-Muslims strictly follow their traditions such as prayers and fasting, while others are more liberal.
So, what factors have driven the rapid growth in the Muslim population in Japan?
Young Muslim Population
In Japan, about half of the permanent Muslim residences have established a family, suggesting that Japan will have more second and third-generation Muslims in the future. These ‘new’ Muslims are going to be exposed to diverse cultural and societal backgrounds and would be the key to bridging the traditional Japanese society with the Muslim community.
Presence of Muslims in the fast-growing regions
A second big reason why the Muslim population has concentrated in Japan is because of the growing economy. People from Muslim-majority countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and others came to Japan as workers. Many worked in the construction business that was booming during the bubble economy. This increase in Muslim immigrants saw an influx of trainees and other workers, which not only multiplied the population but also resulted in an increase in the number of mosques throughout Japan.
Increase in the number of mosques
Speaking of an influx of Muslim immigrants and mosques, the places of worship serve a number of community functions. This includes offering a chance for non-Muslim Japanese to socialize and learn about the religion. More and more mosques are being built and accepting tours from non-Muslim Japanese so the faith is exposed to society. However, with the increase in the number of mosques across Japan, disputes have also emerged in various cities.
Islamophobic feelings towards Islam
One of the most interesting aspects has been how the anti-Islamic perceptions around the world impacted the increase of Muslims in Japan. People became curious and wanted to know how one of the major religions around the world has been inciting violence — or not. The mosques saw a growth in the number of non-Muslim Japanese visitors on the premises, which indicated the motivation of the Japanese people to learn more about Islam.
Introduction of visa-free tourism
In some Muslim countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia, travelers don’t need visas to travel to Japan. The growth of low-cost air travel has also contributed to why people from Muslim countries enjoyed touring in Japan.
Understanding Muslim sentiments
To better cater to Muslim customers from all over the world, a lot of restaurants have gone the extra length to make sure they have halal food (Halal is Arabic for permissible. Halal food is that which adheres to Islamic law, as defined in the Quran that Muslims follow) and have been seeking halal certification from various Japanese organizations. Clearly, Japan is doing a great job in maintaining a more neutral and welcoming attitude towards Muslims.
Low rates of religion switching
Religious switching is relatively low in Muslim societies and the same is true for Japanese Muslims. In general, Muslims who are born to Muslim parents regardless of their place of birth, tend to adhere to Islam. Even if they don’t follow their faith completely, they mostly identify as Muslims — giving rise to Japanese-Muslims in Japan.
It is a truth and universally acknowledged that what one thinks of religion largely depends on what we think is religion. Hence, Japan definitely upped their game to introduce more tolerance, acceptance, and harmony in their society to understand Islam, which has been constantly misunderstood by the world. We don’t know how the future will be defined by an increase in the Muslim population.
However, one thing is clear that it will positively impact the cultural and societal structures that celebrate some important adaptive characteristics among the Japanese culture — and hopefully the world.