SHAFAQNA- An Egyptian legal scholar based in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, says he is working to increase understanding between the Japanese people and the more than 100,000 Muslims who live among them.
Islam has gradually put down roots in Japan. There are now around 60 mosques, many of them established in former private homes.
Mohsen Bayoumy, 55, the imam of one such mosque and a central figure in the Japan Halal Association, says awareness of the faith is on the rise.
Not only are there more restaurants serving halal meals cooked in accordance with Islamic dietary laws, but waiters at nonhalal restaurants often ask Muslim customers about their needs, he said.
Bayoumy was born in a Cairo suburb in 1964 and achieved the feat of memorizing the Quran, Islam’s holy book, when he was 9 years old, under the influence of his devout father. He studied Islamic learning at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, one of the world’s premier centers of Islamic scholarship.
Al-Azhar posts scholars at mosques worldwide, and in 2000 it dispatched Bayoumy to Kobe.
Muslims began arriving in significant numbers during Japan’s late-1980s bubble economy, in search of jobs. They included young people from Pakistan and Indonesia.
Some of them subsequently married Japanese citizens and became permanent residents. They then began raising funds to convert ordinary homes into mosques and community centers, or to buy low-cost prefabricated homes for the same purpose.
That was the environment which Bayoumy found when he arrived. Over the course of the 10 years he spent in Kobe he saw an increase in Japanese people adopting Islam after marrying Muslims or otherwise being exposed to Islamic culture.
“I have witnessed around 600 Japanese citizens converting to Islam,” Bayoumy said.