Tokyo, Jul 1: Furat Bantan is a Saudi translator who has been working in Japan for the past 13 years. He says his life’s goal is simple: To become one of the best Arab translators of the Japanese language and eventually to become a bridge between the Arab world and Japan.
Bantan is currently a translator for the embassy of Lebanon, having earlier worked for the Arab Islamic Institute of Tokyo. The institute, which is an affiliate of the Al-Imam Mohammad ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, was a gift to Japan from the Saudi government with the hope it would help to build cultural ties and foster understanding of Arabic culture.
“I want to deepen my understanding of Japanese culture and religion so that I can relate to their way of thinking and become able to convey Islamic teaching in a way that they accept and understand,” Bantan told Arab News.
Islam is one of the most practiced religions in the world, with the Pew Research Center putting the number of Muslims at about 1.6 billion worldwide. Islam also has one of the highest growth rates of all the world’s faiths, with the Pew survey projecting that the number will rise to 2.8 billion in 2050.
However, the Japanese Muslim community is very small compared to the Muslim populations of many other East Asian countries. Although the exact size remains a matter of speculation, official studies have put it at 100,000-185,000, which for a country of 126.8 million people does seem tiny. Put differently, Muslims make up less than 0.1 percent of Japan’s population.
What Muslims in Japan lack in numbers, however, they make up for with spirit. A number of organizations are dedicated to preserving Islamic traditions and providing religious services. Among the more prominent ones are the Japan Islamic Trust, the Islamic Center of Japan, and the Nippon Asia Halal Association.
There are more than 200 mosques scattered across the country, ranging in size from large, elaborate structures such as the Tokyo Camii in the Shibuya district of the city to small prayer rooms in universities and public-transport facilities.
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