A top politician in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party has praised Buddhism while calling Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” and Islam only somewhat better. Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa made the remarks after meeting the head of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a group traditionally close to the rival Liberal Democratic Party, which was trounced by the Democrats in an August election.
Christianity “is an exclusive and self-righteous religion. And society in the United States and Europe, which are based on Christianity, are at a dead end,” the Nikkei newspaper quoted Ozawa as telling reporters after the meeting. “Islam is better, but it is also exclusive.” (Photo:Buddha statue at Todaiji Temple in Nara, western Japan, 29 Oct 2008/Itsuo Inouye)
Ozawa, seen by some as the mastermind behind the Democrats’ election win, had kinder words for Buddhism, which along with Shinto is the dominant religion in Japan, although many people take a mostly secular and eclectic view. Christians are a tiny minority and Muslims are few in Japan.
Religious organisations can pack clout in Japanese politics because of their ability to mobilise voters, but politicians tend to shun public remarks about people’s beliefs.