The Second Islamic Area Studies International Conference in Cairo
(12–13 December 2009)
Those who have been closely following the development of Japanese scholarship in Islamic studies could not have failed to notice that there has been a remarkable increase in both interest and academic output over the last two decades in the area in question. The interest shown by fresh university graduates towards studies of one or more aspects of Islam is even more remarkable. A growing number of Japanese graduates are taking up Arabic and other Muslim languages such as Turkish, Persian, and Malay with the view of pursuing academic research on Islam and the Muslim communities. I myself have been regularly invited to Japan to present seminar papers and give lectures on various aspects of Islam over the years. Based on my conversation with university Professors and academics and Japanese policy makers I have gained the impression that Japanese academic interest in Islam has been bolstered over the decades by a series of major events of global significance that have been linked in one way or another with Islam. The first was the OPEC oil embargo of 1973–74 which sought to use oil as a weapon to influence the West’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War. As a major exporter of oil on which its industrial power and activities largely rest Japan was badly shaken by the embargo. The second was the 1979 Iranian Islamic revolution; the third, the September 11 tragedy and its aftermath, especially the United States’ invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. But perhaps, there is no other international factor more important than the perennial Palestinian–Israeli conflict in sustaining the Japanese interest in Islam and issues affecting Arabs and Muslims.