Kyoto Islamic Festival refuses foreigners, accepts Japanese Only


Hello All. Turning the keyboard over to friend Ali Rustom, a British national of some Middle Eastern descent, with an essay of great irony. Comment from me at the bottom.



I am a Muslim. I make no apologies for my beliefs, and until today (September 20 2007), I was proud and happy to be a Muslim.

A Muslim festival is due to be held on September 30 2007 in Kyoto (, sponsored by the Islam Culture Center in Kyoto (free dial 0120-519-599, email Recently, a non-Japanese said that he was interested in joining the festival, but when he called to ask if he could go, the sponsors’ first question was if he was a Muslim. He replied that he wasn’t. He was then told that the festival was open only to Muslims and Japanese. Non-Muslims, unless they were Japanese, were forbidden from attending.

As a fellow Muslim, I found this hard to believe. So today I called to see if this was true. First, I got a Japanese lady, who sure enough, asked me if I was a Muslim. I said “no”, but reiterated that I was interested in going anyway. She told me to call back in 10 minutes. I did.

This time she dispatched me to a man, coordinator of the event, who confirmed my friend’s allegations. The cultural event was indeed open to only Muslims and Japanese. Non-Muslim foreigners are to be excluded.

The reason he gave me is that the Muslim community was trying to reach out to the Japanese community and promote understanding of Islam in it.

I asked him, “Isn’t reaching out to foreigners in the community you live in also a part of reaching out to the community and promoting Islam? After all, non-Muslim foreigners are a part of our community, same as Muslims, and same as the Japanese you are reaching out to. Or don’t they count?”

The man answered with an analogy that since the Muslim community was providing food, it was their right to choose who to invite. He said that if he was inviting his family for a meal, someone not related to the family couldn’t complain about being not invited. He said that this case was the same. Non-Muslim foreigners are not family, slam the door.

I replied that it was not the same. Why now are suddenly all Japanese “family”? I told him that a public event is not a “family feast”, and that his comparison was ludicrous.

For the next 10 minutes, he continued to give me stupid excuses, and I continued to refute them, trying to show him the error of his ways. This went on until I realized that there was some grovelling going on here. The fact that he was as adamant to exclude foreigners who were non-Muslim sounded harrowingly like a man who wants to exclude all infidels, but has no choice but to branch out to the Japanese community for fear of being labeled a terrorist. This to me makes the image of Islam in the community even worse.

I finally asked his name. He then said I should go first. I gave him my full name, but then he refused to give anything more than Selim, his first name. He is apparently from Turkey, and he is the spokesman for this festival. That to me is cowardly.

And bigoted. It’s terrible that now, not only do we have to combat prejudice from Japanese people, but now also from fellow non-Japanese. In this case, foreign lickspittles are just trying to get into Japan’s good books. What a setback to community unity, something this festival was supposed to promote!

Think about the damage done: Now that foreigners are discriminating against each other, how can we ever complain about, much less campaign against, racism in Japan by Japanese if the foreign community is doing the same?

I find it, frankly, disgusting that this “Selim” attempts to identify himself as a Muslim. Believe it or not, this goes right against the tolerance that Islam teaches.

Let me give you an example from our teachings: There is a story in the Koran about Prophet Mohammed (Praise Be Upon Him) when he was visiting with non believers (Kooffar) and trying to reach out to them with peace and understanding. Then along came a old man who was lame and who obviously had spent lots of energy to get to the Prophet (PBUH). But when the old man sat down, the Prophet (PBUH) turned his back to him and continued with his conversation to the non-believers in which an Aya (passage) came down from the Koran. The basic gist of this story is that no-one should ever turn away from a person who purposefully comes by his own will asking to learn more about Islam.

Now, it is certainly not my wish to compare someone like this “Selim” to someone as wonderful as our beloved Prophet (PBUH). What I am suggesting is that we should not turn away people who are interested in Islam and learning more about us. Especially when we are inviting them. That means that this festival should be open to everyone, not only to people who are suddenly “family” members thanks to their “host’s” nationality.

Maybe “Selim” should learn how to become a better Muslim, instead of spending his time organizing “exclusionary festivals and parties about cultural understanding” (moronic and oxymoronic). Read the Koran and really understand what it means to a member and a representative of our faith.

Aly Rustom in Tokyo
Cellphone 080 5088 2637

The “Islam World Festival” (Islaamu Sekai Festival) will be held in Kyoto at the Kyoto City Kokusai Kouryuu Kaikan, Tokubetsu Kaigishitsu 2F on Sunday, September 30, between 4:30 and 7:30 PM (doors open 4PM).

The person in charge (gleaned from their website) is Quireshi Selim Yujel (spelling unclear, from Katakana), Director, Islam Bunka Center.

Access: Tozai Subway Line, 6 minutes walk from Ke-age Eki
Cost: Free, with events and food provided
Places for 100 people. Reservations are requested via free dial number 0120-519-599, or via email at
More information in Japanese Only (naturally) at
Try to sign up if you can. Failing that, register a complaint with them if you are inclined.


COMMENT FROM ARUDOU DEBITO: I called the Islam Bunka Center this morning to inquire about my situation as a naturalized Japanese. They said they would let me in, but, alas, they’ve filled up their reservation slots. Thanks, I guess.

I also called the holders of the venue, the Kyoto City International Foundation, at 075-752-3010, and talked to a Mr Takagi. He said that all they do is take money and don’t supervise what these groups do. I asked if a public space refusing foreigners is permissible, as public spaces cannot refuse taxpayers. He said that he would look into it, but the KCIF can’t tell them not to refuse foreigners.

Irony in relief. Metropolis Magazine last week quoted the Muslim Community in Japan in a special article (“True Believers”, Sept. 14, 2007) as saying, “We want more Japanese people to come to talk to us. We want them to share what they are thinking. And we want to help anybody, whether or not she or he is Muslim, in order for us to exist on a cultural level.”

I doubt what’s happening in Kyoto reflects the same spirit. Talking to Japanese at the expense of other members of their community? A lot more of the world than just Japanese also need their image of Muslims adjusted. This won’t help.

Amazing what ironies abound when even foreigners will resort to the same tactics as the worst elements of their “hosts”.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo
September 21, 2007

2 comments on “Kyoto Islamic Festival refuses foreigners, accepts Japanese Only


    Wow! The absurdities! We couldn’t make ’em up better if we tried! Perhaps the spokesperson should have said something like: “This is for Muslims and Japanese only because we have so much in common: unlike infidels and gaijin, we never eat katsudon, for example. And then, of course, we share a common heritage of Wahabi and sabi…”

    Again, thanks for this…Muslims who are willing to speak out in defense of reason and just plain common sense are a sign of hope – even for skeptics like me.


    I can’t believe this!! It’s absurb to hold an event promoting intercultural understanding and to be exclusionary at the same time!!


    Man this is the most fucking ridiculous thing I’ve ever read – an embarassment to the muslim community (which *IS* more exclusive than it should be in many places BTW – I have a degree in Middle East politics from [a major US university] – thesis on Islamic fundamentalism – and have studied Arabic – travelled there, etc – which doesn’t make me an ‘expert’ but it put me a bit ahead of the crowd when it comes to things Islamic).

    Regardless, this is NOT the way to behave ANYWHERE, particularly in a place like Japan where the host culture has a way to go when it comes to internationalisation and multiculturalism.

    Surely, being labelled terrorists – having a harder reception even than most Gaijin, should have learned ’em about discrimination. Never underestimate the obtuseness and stupidity of people.

    Goodness – How many muslims are there in Kyoto anyway?



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