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Can Muslims acquire Japanese citizenship/nationality or permanent residency?

Updated: Nov 9

There's a lot of misinformation regarding Japanese nationality over the years, but it has generally been getting better over time as non-Japanese get more access to information in languages other than Japanese, Chinese, and Korean.

However, a viral post has been circulating around the net that was recently forwarded to me and thus caught my attention. The post has been used as propaganda by both pro-Islam and anti-Islam sides.


Unfortunately, the point they're arguing about — whether the Japanese government and its laws and its Constitution, restrict immigration on the basis of religion (Islam) — is entirely false. Enumerated below are sample points from the post which are most related to the topics this site covers:


"Japan is the only nation that does not give citizenship to Muslims."

Absolutely false. In fact, there's no place anywhere on the written application where one specifies their religion or creed. Nor anything is written about anyone being asked about their religious beliefs in the verbal interviews.


Because there is no place on the written online application for one's religion, the Ministry of Justice can't publish statistics showing the religions (or races) of naturalization candidates; they can only publish sex and former nationality statistics.


However, looking at the nationality statistics, we can find hundreds of examples of people from Islamic states (ex. Indonesia, Iran, and Pakistan) as well as people from nation-states where the official state religion is Islam (ex. Egypt) and greater than 90% of the population is Muslim. Doing a quick web search, one can find Japanese immigration lawyers who specialize in people from Indonesia and brag of a "100% success rate".


Thus, it's very reasonable to conclude from this that while the bulk of those who naturalize are Chinese and Korean, a large percentage of the remaining naturalization candidates are followers of Islam.


The Japanese Constitution states that:

Chapter III - Rights and duties of the people. Article 14.

All of the people are equal under the law and there shall be no discrimination in political, economic or social relations because of race, creed, sex, social status or family origin. Peers and peerage shall not be recognized. No privilege shall accompany any award of honor, decoration or any distinction, nor shall any such award be valid beyond the lifetime of the individual who now holds or hereafter may receive it.


"In Japan permanent residency is not given to Muslims."

This is also false. If you live in Japan you will probably eventually meet somebody who is Muslim. There are a lot more permanent residents in Japan than there are naturalized citizens.


However, looking at the official immigration statistics for Japan shows a large percentage of legal immigrants, both non-permanent and those with Permanent Residency Status of Residence, come from countries where the vast majority of the citizens are Muslim or the official state religion is Islam.


Studies of Muslims in Japan have shown that about 35% are Indonesian, 15% are from Bangladesh, and 10% are from Pakistan.


"There is a strong ban on the propagation of Islam in Japan."

Both Japanese and foreigners can tell you that they've probably come foreign as well as Japanese who proselytize across Christian missionaries as well as Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in Japan. Not to mention the endless amount of "new" religions in Japan. They are either stationary on the street or sometimes go door-to-door.


As mentioned previously, freedom of religion and speech is guaranteed. Also, there is a special visa class just for those involved with religion: Religious activities. Examples include : religious people such as monks, bishops, missionaries, etc.


While Islam does not get any more or less breaks regarding zoning laws than any other religion (including native religions of Japan such as Shinto), they are eligible for tax breaks just like any other religion.


"One cannot import Quran published in Arabic language."

This claim is absolute rubbish. You can find versions of the Quran in Arabic in any mosque in Japan. And while you'd probably need to go to a specialty bookstore (for Muslims or religious texts) or order one online, there is no prohibition against importing them into the country or bringing them with your personal belongings when you come to visit or immigrate to Japan.


While reading and studying from the Quran is supposed to be done in Arabic, there are over seven interpretations of the Quran in Japanese. This is possible because of at least three Constitutional rights in Japan:


Chapter III - Rights and duties of the people. Article 20.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.


Article 21. Freedom of assembly and association as well as speech, press and all other forms of expression are guaranteed.


No censorship shall be maintained, nor shall the secrecy of any means of communication be violated.


Article 23. Academic freedom is guaranteed.


"Even today visas are not granted to Muslim doctors, engineers or managers sent by foreign companies."


There is no way to tell if one is Muslim or not by looking at a Japanese visa application as there is no place to indicate one's religious beliefs. However, it is a fact that Japan grants visas all the time to people from countries whose: state religion is Muslim, is an Islamic republic, or who the majority of the population identifies as Muslim.


As for being a doctor or engineer: depending on the type of doctor or engineer, laws regulating licensed professionals often certify if one can practice their profession in a certain country. This is the same as most countries.


Being able to speak, read, and write Japanese, as well as passing an examination regarding Japanese laws and regulations concerning one's profession, may be a requirement to obtain employment, and thus a visa. This is no different for Japanese professionals working in other countries.


"There is no personal (Sharia) law in Japan."

This is correct. Even more so than the U.S., separation of Church and State is very clear in the Japanese Constitution and observed strictly by most public institutions. This includes public schools.


There are no mentions of any gods or religious symbols on currency, government buildings, or flags. The same Constitutional article that gives religious freedom to everybody also defines the limits:


Chapter III - Rights and duties of the people. Article 20.

Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all. (1) No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority. (2) No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice. (3) The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.


"According to data published by Japanese government, it has given temporary residency to app. 185,000 - 200,000 Muslims, who need to follow the Japanese Law of the Land. These Muslims should speak Japanese and carry their religious rituals in their homes."


Out of the approximately two million foreigners in Japan, the top eight foreign nationalities in Japan, none of which are considered to be predominantly Muslim countries, comprise over 87% of the foreign resident population:

  1. China

  2. Korea

  3. Philippines

  4. Brazil

  5. Vietnam

  6. Peru

  7. United States

  8. Thailand

This means that of the remaining foreign residents split amongst , 69% of the remaining 27 reported countries are most likely Muslim if the 185K - 200K number does not include Japanese nationals. That's a high percentage.


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