Japan courted Muslims: ’43 OSS paper

Anti-Western campaign included tip Emperor would convert to Islam

by William Hollingworth

Kyodo

U.S. intelligence officials were so concerned about Japan’s “infiltration” of Muslim countries during World War II, they proposed urgent countermeasures, formerly secret government documents show.

The Office of Strategic Services (forerunner to the Central Intelligence Agency) said Japan had successfully implemented a policy of courting Muslim nations since the turn of the century to serve its own strategic ends.

In the paper “Japanese Infiltration Among the Muslims Throughout the World,” dated May 1943, the OSS details the methods Tokyo employed to befriend such countries — even spreading word to Muslim nations that Emperor Hirohito might convert to Islam and that it could become Japan’s state religion.

The document says Japan “has expended on (Muslim policy) many years of patient labor and has assigned to it some of her ablest political and military leaders. Her cunning and opportunism, her flexible approach and unscrupulous manipulation of the facts have borne fruit in many lands.”

Japan used a combination of anti-Western and anticommunist views, together with economic power, to appeal to Muslim countries. Tokyo also emphasized the flexible nature of its religion, Shinto, to suggest many Japanese could convert to Islam, it says.

Japan “can appeal . . . to Muslim missionary zeal by hinting the opportunity of large-scale conversions among the Japanese,” it says.

“Instead of posing as the magnanimous protector of Islam, Japan can make a plausible showing as an eager seeker after the truth. Under these circumstances, rumors judiciously planted here and there that the Emperor might consider turning Muslim, are bound to take root and spread.

“Millions of sanguine believers have fallen for the promise that Islam is about to become the world’s greatest power with the Mikado as Caliph,” the OSS research and analysis branch wrote.

According to the report, Japan started to befriend Muslim countries from the 1880s. After the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905, Japan courted the Muslims more openly and as early as 1906, rumors started to circulate that the Emperor was preparing to make Islam Japan’s state religion, the document says.

After World War I, the report says, “Once again word spreads abroad that thousands of Japanese have gone over to Islam, that Japan as a whole is ripe for conversion, and that the Mikado himself is on the verge of embracing the vigorous faith of Muhammad.”

The paper, recently opened up to public view at the National Archives in London, says Tokyo’s Muslim policy was spearheaded by members of the Black Dragon Society (Kokuryukai), a group of Japanese ultranationalists.

The U.S. paper says the policy was formalized by the Muslim Pact in 1900 or 1909 at which an oath was signed to the effect that the participants were to promote faith in Islam. Signatories included Ryohei Uchida, the society’s president; Mitsuru Toyama, the “inspiration behind secret societies,” according to the report; Tsuyoshi Inukai, who would later become prime minister; and pan-Islamic writer Abdurrashid Ibrahim.

The documents say the society was directing the activities of a Japanese named Sakuma who set up in 1923 a Muslim evangelical center in Shanghai called The Society of Light to promote Islam in China.

The documents point to a number of Muslim publications, groups and mosques that were set up in Japan around this time, and notes that for years, Tokyo has been successful at attracting Muslim students to visit Japan for study tours.

In what appears to be a reference to more recent times, the report says Japan has been conducting “persistent undercover activity” in neighboring countries.

“As a result, the Muslim territories of Russia and China have felt the impact of subversive operations enjoying the blessing of Japan,” it says.

The paper notes that Japan was portraying its expansion into Southeast Asia as a means of liberating these countries from “Anglo-American tyranny.”

It names Gen. Sadao Araki, former war minister, and “now a power behind Premier Tojo,” as one of the current exponents of the “Muslim Policy.” Gen. Hideki Tojo served as prime minister from 1941 to 1944 and was hanged as a Class-A war criminal after World War II.

“In short (the Muslim policy) is backed by the most dynamic elements in Japan, on the ascendant since the turn of the century,” it says.

The author believes that Japan judges its policy has been a success and predicts that it might try out a “Catholic Policy” on Latin America.

The OSS proposes its own propaganda campaign in Muslim countries to expose Japan’s “barefaced duplicity,” including showing to Muslim nations that Japan has been forcing emperor-worship on Muslims in its occupied territories.