Turkey in Japan

Last week, Turkey had a strong presence in Japan. A wide delegation under the leadership of the Prime Ministry Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) attended the U.N. world conference on ?Disaster Risk Reduction.? The summit was held in Sendai, a town in the northeast of the country. An extensive group of representatives of civil society, academics and media in Turkey, including me, were also there.

Thereafter, we held several meetings in Tokyo under the auspices of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), a think tank based in Ankara. This gave us the chance to exchange views with the prominent academics, journalists and policy-makers in the country and to witness that the very same agenda dominates both in Turkey and Japan.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) beheaded two Japanese people at the end of last January, creating wide implications for Japan in two aspects.

First of all, Japanese people have been greatly affected. As is well-known, the Japanese overwhelmingly do not belong to a monotheistic religion. Some 80 percent of the society are Shinto and still a high number are also Buddhist. Yet both of these are philosophical movements rather than religions. However, according to recent polls, 60 percent of the people don?t define themselves as Shinto. This is due to the fact that there isn?t any concrete, institutional, categorical and exclusionary concept of religion in the country.

Therefore, ISIL confronted the Japanese people for the first time directly with a monotheistic religion, specifically Islam, which has raised great attention and interest among Japanese people toward the religion. However, it has also resulted in the identification of Islam with ISIL.

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