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After converting to Islam over a decade ago and settling in Turkey, today a Japanese academic gives religious education in Istanbul to Muslim converts from his country.

Visiting Konya in central Turkey to take part in the International Conversion Congress, Kayyim Naoki Yamamoto told how he encountered the religion of Islam and converted.

Yamamoto, 32, said he was deeply affected by the moral and social teachings of Islam and converted 12 years ago. Then he came to Turkey in a bid to learn history, law, and Muslim rules, and studied Turkish, Arabic, and Persian as well as Quran and Islamic studies in Istanbul.

Yamamoto, who continued his studies at Istanbul’s Marmara University, said the number of Muslims in Japan is growing every year.

“It’s easy to become a Muslim in Japan but living as a Muslim is important,” he said. “The information on Islam in Japan is really lacking. It’s hard to live a Muslim identity.”

“I got truly happy upon becoming a Muslim, and now have a project: I bring converted Japanese people to Turkey and teach them Islam and cultural studies,” he explained. “They also learn Turkish, Arabic, and Persian. We’re raising Muslim intellectuals and giving them an opportunity for an education.”

Hussein Jumpei Watanabe, one of Yamamoto’s students, said he converted to Islam five years ago and was influenced by the troubles of Muslims struggling in Syria and Iraq.

“While trying to learn about them, I encountered Islam. I now learn the language in Turkey; in my own country, I’m getting my master’s in social sciences. When I get back to Japan, I will tell people about Islam,” he said.

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