Muslim group using anime to construct mosque in Shizuoka

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SHAFAQNA – A Muslim group here has turned to anime to raise funds for its plan to build a mosque in the city of Shizuoka.

The Shizuoka Muslim Association intends to use the facility not only for prayers but also for exchanges between Muslims and local residents.

The mutual aid organization started the Shizuoka Masjid Project in 2010. Masjid means mosque.

“A mosque with the symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji, in the background will attract many Muslim tourists to Shizuoka. And with it, it will benefit local businesses,” said Yassine Essaadi, 36, the association’s representative.

But the association so far has collected only about 20 million yen ($171,000) of the expected 300 million yen in expenses needed to build the mosque.

The association hopes to further spread word about its anime video that urges Muslims to make contributions while promoting solidarity among Muslims and the significance of the planned mosque.

Donations increased after the video was released on the Internet in June 2015.

According to the association, the anime has been viewed at least 1.2 million times through overseas social networking sites for Muslims.

However, Essaadi said he is worried that some residents might oppose the construction plan based on a misunderstanding that Muslims are violent due to recent terrorist attacks.

“Since the olden times, the Islamic world and Japan have built human connections,” said Osamu Miyata, director of the Center for Contemporary Islamic Studies in Japan. “Essentially, Muslims have no relation with terror. It is important to deepen understandings through the construction of the mosque that will serve as a place for exchanges.”

If the mosque is constructed, it will be the third one in Shizuoka Prefecture, following those in the cities of Hamamatsu and Fuji.

The association also plans to use the mosque for Arabic language classes and cooking lessons to convey Islamic culture to local residents.

Muslims in Japan have strong hopes for the construction of the mosque because Shizuoka city is already home to one of the largest graveyards for Muslims in Japan.

Jakaria Ahamed, 34, who works at a food processing factory in Shizuoka’s Shimizu Ward, goes to the Shimizu Reien Islamic Graveyard in the Isabu district of the ward whenever he has a holiday.

About three years ago, his 3-year-old daughter died of a disease. His wife died in 2014.

“On holidays, I come to this grave without fail even if it rains. That is because I want to see them,” said Ahamed, who came to Japan in 2001.

He said Shizuoka is a good place to live partly because of the graveyard, but he sometimes feels the city is inconvenient for Muslims.

“One of the reasons is that there is no mosque,” Ahamed said. “If the mosque is constructed, I can hold a memorial service for my wife and daughter there.”

According to Shimizu Reien, the Islamic graveyard covers about 49,000 square meters. In Islam, bodies are buried without being cremated, and burials are not permitted in conventional cemeteries in many cases.

Only a handful of graveyards exclusively for Muslims exist in Japan, including those in Yamanashi Prefecture and Hokkaido. Because of that, Shimizu Reien has received requests for burials from throughout Japan.

The Shizuoka Muslim Association is also considering dispatching religious leaders to the cemetery after the mosque is constructed.

The anime can be seen on the association’s website (http://muslimjapan.com).

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