Why do I love Japan as a Muslim? This question is so simple, yet it is one of the most complex questions I have ever faced in my whole lifetime. This statement may be strange for some folks. However, I started loving this country the moment I landed here as a graduate student some 25 years ago. It still impresses me. It still touches my heart and it is increasingly becoming Muslim-friendly with every passing day.
The list of the reasons I love this land of the rising sun may be quite lengthy. However, today, I just want to mention a few of them. But, before I do that, let me tell you from the outset that I hate wine/beer from the bottom of my heart. Alhamdulillah, I have NEVER EVER drunk no matter what. I hate the bad alcohol smell coming from folks on a busy train over the weekends.
I also know deep down in my heart that the Japanese family system is crumbling. The divorce rate is extremely high. And the children do not love their parents much. I am also annoyed by the bicycle riders who use roads instead of footpaths to ride their bicycles and end up disturbing the flow of regular traffic. But, the Japanese legal system protects them. Apart from the above-mentioned issues and a few others, I love the country from the bottom of my heart.
I love the country because it allows me to fulfill all my religious obligations without any failure. I can pray anywhere I like without fearing that someone would torture me. I can donate money to any masjid of my choice without being questioned about the source of that income.
I also love Japan because, geographically speaking, it is small and I can see all tourism sites, historical places of attraction, attend cultural festivals and experience various facets of Japanese culture and history without spending a lot of time.
I love this country because it is so rich in culture. It is so old, yet so much modern at the same time. I can go anywhere I like in the country at any time and meet anyone I need to without being questioned by anyone. Japan has been rolling out the red carpet for Muslims from Malaysia, Indonesia, and many other places by granting visa-free access for some time now.
Although I am a born-Muslim who tried to practice his religion from day one, I sincerely believe that I rediscovered Islam after coming here. I get the feeling from time to time that there is something sacred I need to protect while living in this country of majority non-believers. I am careful about how I behave with the Japanese people. I am keenly aware of the problems the young generation of the Muslims is facing in the country and I try to teach my children about the basics of Islam and what it means to be a devout Muslim while fully conforming to the norms of the society we live in.
Still another reason I love this country is that I have recently started seeing prayer rooms in many major shopping malls in the country. I can see Qiblah marks in many hotels all over the country. I can witness a countless number of halal restaurants springing up almost everywhere. I can see that many major companies in the country offer halal dishes in their kitchens. I can even see my fellow Muslims at airports, at masjids, at shopping malls, and in the streets regularly.
There are endless reasons why I am in love with Japan as a Muslim but that would take me forever to tell the world. So, what else a Muslim would want from a non-Muslim majority country such as Japan.