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Muslims in Japan face lack of burial sites

Muslim doctrine calls for burial of the dead, but there aren’t enough cemeteries designated for burial in Japan.

And it’s difficult to get consent for burial in this country where cremation is common, according to the Japan Muslim Association and other sources. In Kyushu, there’s just one cemetery where Muslims can be buried, and it’s located in Beppu. (In Fukuoka city, burials are not prohibited, but they require the consent of local residents.)

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The Muslim population in Japan is expected to increase, but those who wish to have “a place to mourn” are already struggling to secure cemeteries.

“If this continues, it won’t be possible in a few years to take in any more Muslims,” said Puppo Orlando, 78, a priest at the Catholic Beppu Church. Orlando spoke in front of stone tablets with names engraved in Arabic and English, among other languages, at a Catholic cemetery in the mountains of Beppu. He began offering vacant cemetery spaces to Muslims about eight years ago.

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While burial itself is not regulated under Japanese law, requirements for opening a cemetery are regulated by local governments, and it’s not easy to create new cemeteries for burials.

Muslims cemeteries are located in Hokkaido, Yamanashi and Shizuoka, among other prefectures.

Orlando was moved to share the church’s cemetery when Zafar Saeed, a 37-year-old Pakistani, appealed to him.

“There’s no cemetery where my newborn eldest son can be buried. I can’t collect his body from the hospital,” Saeed said.

Orlando decided to accept the body.

“We’re the same human beings, even if our religion is different. Mourning the dead is sacred,” he said.

Orlando has taken in about 10 bodies so far but said he can only accept a few more.

The Japan Muslim Association estimates about 170,000 Muslims live in Japan. According to the Beppu Muslim Association, about 500 Muslims live in Oita Prefecture.

Fukuoka Masjid, the first full-scale mosque in the Kyushu-Yamaguchi area, was completed in Fukuoka city in 2009. An estimated 1,000 Muslims live in Fukuoka Prefecture. The mosque does not own a dedicated cemetery.

“There are an increasing number of Muslim people who settle in Japan through marriage or employment,” said Kahn Tahir, a representative of the Beppu association, explaining that demand for burial spaces will go up. (staradvertiser.com)

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