Being a Muslim myself, I have to say that religion plays an enormous part in my daily life. From the time I wake up until I sleep, the way I dress and what I eat, they are all been influenced by religion.
I used to live in Egypt before coming to Japan. It is foreign, but still a Muslim country. My life in Egyptian community was not as different as in Japan but somehow the religion factor made it even better. Even though we have different languages and cultures, but just because you are the same religion as them, they treat you like family. The sense of belonging was there.
I was not sure about people of other religion, but I think Muslims have strong ‘religion-bond’ or ‘comradery’ between us. For most of us, ethnicity does not have that much of an impact in our social life. For example; if you ask me who I am, the first thing that come to my mind is not “I am Malaysian” but “I am a Muslim”. It is what I define myself. And it’s already embedded there, deep into my subconscious part. No matter where I am.
Some people living outside of their country, outside their comfort zone, during lonely or desperate time will usually search for their own countrymen, people of same language and culture but not me I guess. People usually will tell me that it must be lonely to be the only Malaysian in the campus. For me, I don’t really care if there is a Malaysian around. Sure if there are others it will be ‘welll that’s goood’ but if there are other Muslims, it will be ‘that’s great!!!’. For example, whenever I went to new places for travel, or even during the first time I arrived in Japan, the first thing I checked out was the location of nearest mosque. Find a mosque and your loneliness will go away. Find a mosque and you will definitely find a Muslim community that will help you to adapt and welcome you with open arms. Find a mosque and you will find your source of halal food.
Of course I do not mean to say that the Japanese are not friendly or helpful. They are in fact friendly and very helpful. But it’s a bit different than being with fellow Muslim. You feel less awkward wearing hijab because they wear it too, you can (and cannot) eat the same stuff, you pray and fast together. No matter which language we use, and sometimes we don’t even have same language to communicate with each other but we definitely understand each other so much more better.
Very interesting video about Islam in Japan if you guys are interested.
By Sakina Mahmud