Muslims in Japan harassed in wake of hostage crisis

MUSLIMS IN JAPAN HARASSED — File photo taken Feb. 1, shows Muslims from across Japan praying for Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist believed to have been killed by the Islamic State militant group, at Otsuka Mosque in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward.                                                    Kyodo News photo

MUSLIMS IN JAPAN HARASSED — File photo taken Feb. 1, shows Muslims from across Japan praying for Kenji Goto, a Japanese journalist believed to have been killed by the Islamic State militant group, at Otsuka Mosque in Tokyo’s Toshima Ward. Kyodo News photo

TOKYO — At least six mosques and a Muslim organization in Japan have received threats since a hostage crisis that saw two Japanese men killed by the Islamic State militant group, a Kyodo News survey showed Feb. 23.

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

The mosques in Sapporo, Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, Ichinomiya in Aichi Prefecture and Niihama in Ehime Prefecture reported receiving abuse, as did the JMA.

The JMA and Japanese mosques have condemned the 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.

Following the release of video footage by the militant group on Feb. 1 showing freelance journalist Kenji Goto had been decapitated, the survey respondents received abusive messages including “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, northeastern Japan, 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. But 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 the survey.

After a Nagoya mosque reported receiving abusive calls, it was inundated with messages of support including a bouquet of flowers with a note attached, reading, “Hoping there will be no more prejudice.”

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