On July 23, 2016 the Japan Center for Michigan Universities (JCMU) in Hikone welcomed Junko Hayashi, Japan’s first female Muslim attorney, to speak about Islam and the issues faced by Muslims in Japan. In a recent court battle, Mrs. Hayashi represented Japanese Muslims that were being observed by the Japanese government for no reason other than the fact that they were Muslims. Their surveillance came to light after information gathered by police was accidentally leaked to the public on the internet. Despite this, Japanese courts ruled that there was no constitutional violation and that the threat of international terrorism outweighed any right to privacy held by the plaintiffs.
Mrs. Hayashi gave two presentations at the JCMU Hikone campus: one in Japanese for the local community and one in English for our students and faculty. JCMU Resident Director Benjamin McCracken later interviewed Mrs. Hayashi about the court case and its impact on the Muslim community in Japan.
In the interview, Mrs. Hayashi lamented that “all Muslims are equal to criminal suspects” in Japan. She noted that because of prejudice against practitioners of Islam, she and the rest of the Japanese Muslim community are denied personal and privacy rights enjoyed by most other citizens. “Their rights are violated and they can’t do anything about it,” Mrs. Hayashi explained. The stereotypes of Muslims have little factual support, as no acts of terrorism have been carried out by Muslims in Japan to Mrs. Hayashi’s knowledge. To redress this discrimination and support those affected by the government’s continued surveillance, she hopes to start a human rights organization.
The JCMU administration were honored to host this special lecture, as Muslim culture is an important part of society in Michigan. As JCMU is a place where people from many different backgrounds come together to learn about culture and language while exchanging ideas that make our world a better place, Mrs. Hayashi’s unique perspective on this timely and important issue was a natural fit with the greater JCMU mission. The JCMU administration hopes that this event can help educate the local community and students about Islam and Muslim culture, contributing to a greater wave of mutual understanding so that the Islamophobia experienced in much of the world might be avoided in Japan.
The interview with Mrs. Hayashi is available online and can be watched in its entirety in the video above. For further information about JCMU and its programs please see visit the JCMU English website and the JCMU Japanese website.