What Japan taught me about overcoming the ills of Islamophobia

The ability lies in our hands. (Image: Fotolia)

The ability lies in our hands. (Image: Fotolia)

A classroom encounter in Tokyo showed Aseel Zaher that the best way to counteract the fear of being a victim of Islamophobia is to lead by example.

Today is the ninth day since I temporarily moved to Japan. While experiences are still to come, I’ve become inspired in many ways by the Japanese way of life, their mannerisms, culture, and so on. During one of my language classes, our sensei (teacher) diverted the conversation to Japanese culture and the contributions Japan has made to the world. Someone raised their hand and mistakenly added “numbers”, to which our teacher swiftly replied “No no, they are Arabic.”*

For a Muslim Arab living in Tokyo (a rather rare species in this terrifyingly large metropolis) who has slowly begun to adapt to the Japanese everyday life, I felt acknowledged in a small way.


I understand that the current situation makes us feel unsafe, unwanted, and alienated. The current fear-mongering in Australia clearly demonstrates that the hysteria is in no one’s benefit, whether you are Muslim or not…

Don’t be distracted. Forget the appearances on the street, the stares or the occasional verbal slur….

“You are the best nation produced [as an example] for mankind. You enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and believe in Allah. If only the People of the Scripture had believed, it would have been better for them. Among them are believers, but most of them are defiantly disobedient.” (Ali Imran 3:110)

*Base 10 numbers (including the concept of zero) were brought by Arabs from India. But because it was from Arabs that Europeans came into contact with base 10 numbers, they are still called “Arabic.”