Mosques in Japan harassed in wake of hostage crisis


At least six mosques and a Muslim organization in Japan have received threats since the hostage crisis that saw two Japanese men killed by the Islamic State militant group.

There are between 70 and 80 mosques in Japan, according to the Tokyo-based Japan Muslim Association. Among 16 mosques that responded to queries, six reported having received abusive telephone calls or emails.

Mosques in Sapporo, Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, and Niihama, Ehime Prefecture, reported receiving abuse, as did the Japan Muslim Association.

The association and mosques in Japan have condemned Islamic State as a terrorist group committing acts of brutality that are out of line with the teachings of Islam, and have emphasized that ordinary Muslims should not be equated with the group.

After the release of video footage by the militant group on Feb. 1 showing that freelance journalist Kenji Goto had been decapitated, the mosques received abusive messages such as “Die,” “Religion of murderers” and “I hate even the sight of Muslims,” as well as threats such as “Get out of Japan right now if you don’t want to be killed.”

Some of the mosques, concerned about the safety of children attending prayers, contacted local police and were advised on security measures.

Staff at a mosque in Sendai said that while they were not directly harassed, a Muslim student attending a local graduate school was turned away by an apartment landlord who vowed to refuse to rent to Muslim students. Another landlord offered an apartment to the student in response.

“There is very little contempt for Muslims in Japan. We feel contented living here,” staff at the Sendai mosque said in response to queries.

After a mosque in Nagoya reported receiving abusive calls, it was inundated with messages of support. It also received a bouquet of flowers with a note that said, “Hoping there will be no more prejudice.”