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Top court green-lights surveillance of Japan’s Muslims

Mohamed Fujita used to host religious study groups at his home that were open to all Muslims. But today he’s afraid to invite strangers, in case they’re police informants.

Extensive surveillance has put many people of his faith on edge, he says, sowing mistrust.

A native of Japan who converted to Islam more than two decades ago, Fujita was one of 17 plaintiffs in a lawsuit that challenged blanket monitoring of the country’s followers of Islam. His name has been changed in this story to protect his identity, after police documents labelling him a possible security threat were leaked online.

“They made us terrorist suspects,” he says. “We never did anything wrong – on the contrary.”

Fujita’s wife first noticed the couple was being followed by law enforcement in the early 2000s. He says he would go out of his way to cooperate with officers when they would occasionally approach him. But they eventually asked that he report on other members of his mosque and he refused.

Then came the leak in 2010 of 114 police files, which revealed religious profiling of Muslims across Japan. The documents included resumé-like pages listing a host of personal information, including an individual’s name, physical description, personal relationships and the mosque they attended, along with a section titled “suspicions.”

The files also showed by the time the 2008 G8 summit was held in Hokkaido, northern Japan, at least 72,000 residents from Organisation of Islamic Conference countries had been profiled – including about 1,600 public school students in and around Tokyo.

Police in the capital had also been surveilling places of worship, halal restaurants, and “Islam-related” organisations, the documents showed.

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