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Sunday, 29 April 2007


Sameeh Hammad

Salaamu Alaikum, Brother AbdurRaheem!!,

MashAllah what a well written article. One thing I continually wonder about is the line between knowing and understanding contemporary politics and history as opposed to just reacting to them in an "islamic fashion" as if it might be truly Islamic to allow the world to get on with their plans while we sit and wait to react "islamically." Anyway just a thought. One article I think you should take a look at is posted here, http://www.reuters.com/article/wtMostRead/idUSL2532025120070430 . It's about hymenoplasty and its use by young "muslim women." I sincerely support your talks with youth and find them eye opening and sincere, Allahu Alim. The article is heartbreaking and another point to pay attention to is that its on the "most read" list. All this crying and lying about Islam for many people just really has to do with sexual sensationalism of women who are supposed to be of honor. Anyway, hopefully you can use it for your talks InshaAllah.


PS Please continue to write articles dealing with contemporary issues. I can't trust many people who do such things as far as what is Islamically correct to take a position on, and Allahu Alim

ARGcomment: I heard about this years and years ago, even b4 I was Muslim in Egypt where apparently they are the worlds experts on th is opperation. Its that old problem of culture again. I wonder how many of these men are virgins, or is it one rule for women and another for men? I think we know the answer to that!

M. S. M. Saifullah

Ahhh... it is good to see a Brit not having a colonial hang-over :-) Coming to the serious issues... the rise of Empires is always associated with the concept called the "end of history". When the Empires reach their peak, they think for them the history has ended. Whatever is left of history is what the Empires make everyday, every year. The British suffered from this "end of history" in late 1800s when the Empire was at its peak and the Sun did not set on the Empire. This gave the Empire a sense of immortality. They turned too giddy up there and ,not surprisingly, they also fell and fell big time. It took the United Kingdom two devastating and costly world wars to bring down to her knees and the Empire almost vanished. The British Empire suffered from hubris and imperial overstretch. Not surprisingly, wars being costly, also resulted in shortage of money for the Empire. The Empire could not sustain itself and instead chose democracy to survive. In the post-world war scenario, the United Kingdom, still stuck in the colonial hang-over, fought unsuccessful battle in Egypt. The only notable success was the Falkland war. Iraq war, undoubtedly, is a big disaster.

Not to long, after the end of the Cold War, and with an apparent claim of the USA's victory, Francis Fukuyama wrote a book with the title of "End of History and the Last Man". To him the end of the Cold War gave way to the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. Around the same time Samuel P. Huntington published "The Clash of Civilizations", almost an antithesis of Fukuyama's "End of History", which argued that the temporary conflict between ideologies is being replaced by the ancient conflict between civilizations. Finally, it will be the dominant civilization that decides the form of human government, and it may not remain constant.

The question, which you did not address and of prime importance for us, in your blog is whether the USA is an Empire. In my opinion, it is a fact that they have numerous military bases (for what??) and are willing to fight to have control over world's resources. I do not agree that the Cold War was won by the US. I think both Soviet Union and the USA lost it, except that the Soviet Union was the first to bankrupt itself and now it is now the turn of the USA. Look at USA's debt ($8 trillion+) and it is a question of how and when the USA would have a financial collapse, orderly or disorderly. On top of it, the Iraq war is fought on the credit card and also loosing it! A clear example of imperial overstretch and living beyond once own means. On the US imperialism and Empire, Chalmers Johnson has written "Blowback", "The Sorrows of Empire" and "Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic". The last one is his latest and appears to be quite interesting. It is a worthwhile read.

ARGcomment: Ahhh..yes, the New Empire! Well it was only a thought, not a thesis. Something of coourse that I also didn't adress and should have, inshallah will do, is our huge hang up over our lost Empire(s)!

M. S. M. Saifullah

ARG, there was something else that I forgot to add. The Indian Mutiny of 1857 was preceded a struggle between the Muslims and Christian missionaries which resulted in the Agra debate between Maulana Rahmatullah ibn Khalil al-Rahman al-Kairanawi and Carl Pfander, a Christian missionary, in 1854. This debate was attended by Sir William Muir, then Secretary to the Indian Government among others from the Christian side. Pfander was forced
to admit that the Bible has been altered and hence he lost his case as well as the argument. Apparently, he ran away to Peshawar even before the debate ended and finally to Europe and died as a dejected man. This run up to this debate as well as the debate is documented in Avril A. Powell's "Muslims and Missionaries in Pre-Mutiny India". Even to this day, the Kairanawi-Pfander debate is fondly remembered in India among the Muslim scholars as a big victory to Muslims and Islam. The consequences of this debate was not very good for Muslims who were now emboldened against the British. The 1857 mutiny resulted in killing of many Muslim scholars in hands of British. Kairanawi, a top target, had to run away from India to Makkah and he finally was invited by the Sultan in Istanbul as his fame had reached even the Ottoman Empire. There he wrote "Izharul Haqq", a book far ahead of its time when it came to the critical studies of the Bible.

ARGcomment: Izharul Haqq of course was the book that Ahmed Deedat was inspired by. Do you know where I can get some more info on this debate? It is of course this month 150 years since the Indian mutiny, and I wanted to write a post on it.


I've been thinking about this for some time. Whilst it holds true for the classical civilisaitons, the various Islamic empires are not except from this theory, but is often overlooked by Islamic intellectuals
A lot of focus is often put on the fall of Rome or Greece,whihc is useful for understanding our modern empires of the west. It is not so useful however, in explaining the empires of the East. Take for example the Yuan dynasty in China, the Tirmorid and Il Khan empires of Persia and the Eastern Islamic lands, the Moghul Empire of India (and the other 2 "gunpowder" empires, the Ayyubids and Mamlukes of Syria and Egypt, and the list is endless.

The theory of the rise and fall of civilisations and empires is a story that gives us hope (the injustice is rising, and we are changing through the struggles, inshaAllah to become worthy of being of the generation that will bring Islam to the ends of the earth as promised.) But it serves as a great warning against quick fix solutions and is something that needs to be carefully thought out.

There have been many attempts in our history of people who sought to make a quick change revolution or uprising. Some were successful (such as the Abbasids) but many others were foolish and savagly repressed. Not every rebellion is successful, and the price to pay is often far worse than the intial problem. This shoudl serve as a reminder for those who also wish to implement quick fix stratagies here and elsewhere.

I have thought quite long and come up with 4 situations that any person will ever face in terms of rulership:
A Good strong pious ruler (such as Umar Ra)
A Weak but pious ruler (such as Umar bin Abdul Aziz or Haroon alayhi salam was when looking ater the Bani Israel and the incident of Samiri narrated in surah Ta Ha)
A Weak but corrupt ruler (the counless princes, amirs sultans and caliphs who ruled for such short periods of time that we dont event know all of their names)
A Stong Corrupt Ruler (such as Hulagu, and other tyrants and foreign invaders.)

All four represent a test for the Muslim, even the strong pious muslim ruler. It is often under them that the seeds of discontentment are sown due to unrelenting hard work fee sabilillah.
The Weak but pious ruler is challanged by those who feel that genuine justice will undermine their power and prestigee and so will work to challange the ruler at every opertuity and often succeed.
The Weak but corrupt ruler is often the one enslaved by the harem or is a puppet to other more powerful forces. The muslim is tested here by frustration and the inability of the rulership to do anything.
A stong Corrupt ruler - here a muslim is tested by being persecuted for his faith.

As for how empires fit into this, well they include all four, with more than a few periods of anarchy as well, thrown in jut for good measure!

M. S. M. Saifullah

ARG, the run up to the debate and the blow-by-blow account of this debate is given in Avril A. Powell's "Muslims and Missionaries in Pre-Mutiny India". This book available in second-hand bookshops on the internet or even better go to the SOAS and enjoy this book! Better, buy it and insha'allah, you will not regret having it! The nice thing about this book is that it adds a different dimension to the Indian Mutiny of 1857, i.e., conversions of Muslims and Hindus to Christianity. It is widely held that the reason for the Indian Mutiny was Enfield gun and the bullet or cartridge coated with animal fat, pork and beef fat, the former was haraam for Muslims and the latter for Hindus. That is what we studied in high school!


A most riveting article- once I muster up the brain power I'll churn out some pseudo-intellectual musings..


ARGcomment: Yea, what a joke! What waves do we rule now? And far from not being slaves, we're even worse we're poodles!


Avril Powell is one of our lecturers. She's a really nice lady (May Allah guide her ameen) and her take on Islam in India is quite novel in that she isn't the typical orientalist. That might have something to do with the fact that she lived in Pakistan for a few years and can actually speak urdu.

She also has something about slavery coming out soon which would be interesting as the priod that she specialises in (early modern India) is an area that has not recieved much in the way of good academic study. Might be worth while to read that as well.

ARGComment: I've just ordered the book from Amazon so expect a short histrory of the Indian mutiny blog soon


Asalaam alaikum,

Bro, Thank you for writing candidly about your past and present views on Colonialism. I agree with the previous comments and would like to add something: It is surprising how widely entrenched such attitudes are even today and you have made a good contribution to the debate. However, there is an issue which goes to the heart of the debate, I find it disturbing that while recognizing and attacking racist attitudes against Asians there is an acquiescence to generalist (racist) stereotypes against the same. I.e. apparently my father's generation and their forefathers submitted to Colonialism with a 'servantile' attitude. Need I remind you that dead men do not tell tales nor should we rewrite their attitude so dismissively - unless we are informed enough to - and yes that means living and knowing the people and their history. I'm afraid that one does need to be very careful when you are not from the same cultural tradition - because you may simply not be qualified enough to write but may inadvertently offend the sensibilities of your brothers and sisters. How many millions fought against colonialists in India/Bengal and died there - Shaheed inshaallah. The British colonialists were almost routed on several occasions - not only in Peshawar or the Khyber Pass - but in the heart of the Punjab, present day Mansura and across 'India'. The 'servantile' attitude was from hypocrites and polytheists and the Muslims - up to today - were marginalised as a result of their resistance. Alas history is written by the victor. Of another ken, yet more profound, is the issue of critical thinking. Habeebi - we (our generation) may have learned this from Western Education but Muslims in India and across the world have been engaged in such for centuries - one needs but open any manual of Fiqh or, more properly, Usool al-Fiqh, to put this issue into perspective. More so, critical thinking has a root/branch relationship to true faith (as I’m sure you would agree). My dear brother, what we perceive as 'servantile' and uncritical may well be founded in our own ignorance of the vulnerability and flux that the poor and oppressed (abroad) and the new immigrant find themselves in. Think of the colour, language, culture, religion, economic, political and familial differences that a new immigrant (a brown face in a sea of white faces) must necessarily deal with in order to make any sense of their new life. We all know the pejorative 'coconut' and 'Uncle Tom' applied to both the Caribbean and Asian who 'sold out'. These terms only came about when those communities, like any 'new' immigrant community, had enough standing and confidence to assert its own society. Prior to that, there was little challenge to racist attitudes simply because they were too prevalent, deeply entrenched and the opponents too few. To oppose the greater society when you are a fledgling minority would be societal and political suicide - as is clear from the Seerah. I hope you post my comment and would appreciate a reply.
Wasalaam alaikum

ARGcomment:Your comments are much appreciated, however I simply don't agree that I am not allowed to generalize. You have to! Just because your grandfather was not like that it doesn't mean that is/was not generally true. I personally know many like your grandfather, and thought about those "exceptions" when I wrote the article, but it doesn't change the actually perception. At the end of the day, its the perception of the "Britisher" that matters here, and I'm sure many might find my generalizations offensive also. Sure there maybe lots of reasons for it, but it doesn't change the actuality.

Shyed Shahriar Housaini

As-salamu alaaicum.
I am from Bangladesh. I wnt to go straight to the point.

Here are some articles, I think which will help us to realize what really is there behind a economically and techonogycally ( the most ) successful
country. ( The best in ASIA ).


Japan's virgin wives turn to sex volunteers

Lustless matches put country on brink of demographic disaster

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Monday April 4, 2005
The Guardian

Like many Japanese women, Junko waited until her early 30s to get married. When she and her fiance, an employee of a well-known firm, decided to tie the knot, she set her sights on making a home, putting away some money and starting a family.
Fifteen years later, Junko and her husband are childless. It is not that they cannot have children; it is just that they have never had sex.

The sexless marriage is one of several reasons why experts fear Japan is on the verge of a demographic disaster.
In 2003 Japan's birthrate hit a record low of 1.29 - the average number of times a woman gives birth during her lifetime - one of the lowest rates in the world, according to the cabinet office. The population will peak next year at about 128 million, then decline to just over 100 million by 2050.

The 200 women a year who seek help at a clinic in the Tokyo suburbs have not had sex with their husbands in up to 20 years, and some never, according to Kim Myong-gan, who runs the clinic.

"The women who come to see me love their husbands and aren't looking for a divorce," he told the Guardian. "The problem is that their husbands lose interest in sex or don't want sex from the start. Many men think of their wives as substitute mothers, not as women with emotional and sexual needs."

Mr Kim's short-term solution is unconventional. After an initial 20,000 yen (£100) counselling session, he produces photographs of 45 men, mostly professionals in their 40s, with whom the women are invited to go on dates and then, in almost all cases, arrange regular assignations in hotel rooms.

Mr Kim dismissed charges that his service was little more than a male prostitution ring. "The men volunteer and pay half the hotel and restaurant bills, so legally there is absolutely nothing wrong with it," he said.

He had rescued hundreds of women from despair, he said, but his "sex volunteers" would do nothing to cure the malaise that afflicts the institution of marriage in Japan.

The number of married couples is in rapid decline. In 2000 almost 70% of men and 54% of women between 25 and 29 were unmarried. That bodes ill for the birthrate, as conservative Japanese society frowns upon having children outside marriage.

A survey of 600 women found that 26% had not had sex with their husbands in the past year.

"We are sort of room-mates rather than a married couple," one 31-year-old man, who had not had sex with his wife for two years, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

The government has introduced several measures to lift the birthrate. Fathers will be encouraged to take more than the 47% of annual paid leave they currently use, and their employers will be told to provide more opportunities for them to stay at home with their children.

Local authorities, meanwhile, are devising novel ways to increase fertility. In the town of Yamatsuri women will receive 1m yen if they have a third child, and in Ishikawa prefecture families with three children will get discounts at shops and restaurants.

The absence of children in so many homes is having an impact. Fun parks are closing and there are signs that the "exam hell" teenagers go through to secure places at top schools and universities is less of an ordeal because the competition is less fierce.

The divorce rate has nearly doubled in the past 10 years, with more women blaming their sexually inactive, as opposed to sexually errant, husbands for break-ups.

"The men love their companies; they live for work," Mr Kim said. "Men don't even think it is a problem if they don't have sex with their wives. They have pornography and the sex industry to take care of their needs, but their wives have nowhere to go. They just suffer in silence."


Japan enters the age of silver divorces

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Thursday October 18, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

A woman shopping in Tokyo. Photograph: Junji Kurokawa/AP

Toshiko Yamada endured her husband's womanising and workaholism in silence for all of their 35 years of marriage. Now, as they near retirement, she is preparing to divorce him. But not until she has secured a "reward" for her troubles.

Experts predict that the retirement, over the next two and half years, of more than 7 million men belonging to the post-war baby boomer generation, together with recent legal change entitling women to up to half of their ex-husband's pension, will prompt a slew of divorce proceedings involving middle-aged couples

For Yamada, a softly spoken 62-year-old, a modest windfall would be no less than she deserves. "I never once asked for money for the whole time we were married," she told Guardian Unlimited in an interview at her lawyer's office.

"I never complained, even though I knew he was having an affair. My friends used to say, 'Why don't you divorce him?' but I always thought that as he got older he would stop being unfaithful. And before I knew it 35 years had passed."

Amid warnings that many divorced women will struggle to survive alone on half of their husband's pension, some experts welcome the end of the previous arrangement under which women who never had worked full-time were only eligible for a basic state pension of around ¥60,000 (£253) a month.

Company pensions can be generous, but for decades divorced women have not been entitled to a single yen. "[They] often find themselves with no choice other than to seek government assistance," said Sayoko Oya, a social insurance specialist. "The system has been very unfair to wives when it comes to divorce."

Divorce loans

In a further sign of what many experts will be a glut of divorces among the middle-aged, Okagi Kyoritsu Bank this month became the first Japanese bank to offer special "divorce loans".

The regional bank said it would offer lump sums of between ¥100,000 and ¥5m to cover the costs of alimony, distribution of property and, significantly, court action. The service, which was introduced after requests from customers, is expected to appeal most to older couples, and women in particular, who can't afford the high interest charged by consumer loan firms.

But the availability of loans and the prospect of a more generous financial settlement are not the only reasons why Japan has entered the age of the "silver divorce".

The "salaryman" has been the driving force behind Japan's postwar economic miracle, but unquestioning devotion to work has made him a virtual stranger in his own home. Having given their best years - and most of their time - to their employers, many men enter retirement unable to relate to wives who have long since given up on their "wet leaves" - a nickname for husbands who, cut adrift from the routine of office life, have no idea how to spend their newly acquired free time.

Japan's divorce rate dropped from a record 290,000 to 262,000 in 2006, but tens of thousands of women are thought to have been quietly biding their time - a view supported by health ministry figures showing that the overall divorce rate in April – the most recent figures available - increased by 6% from the same period last year.

In 2004, the number of divorces among couples married for at least 20 years rose to 42,000 - double the number in 1985- and the rate among those aged 45-64 has increased 15-fold since 1960.

"I think lots of women have been waiting for this change," says Junko Nakamura, a Tokyo divorce lawyer. "The new law has been a long time coming. In the past, all the husband had to do was promise to pay his wife maintenance. Many didn't honour that commitment, but their ex-wives had very few legal options open to them."

Takao Suzuki, vice-director of the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology, agrees that the prospect of a more generous divorce settlement will prompt many women to act.

"Modern Japanese women are more independent," he said. "They are better educated, so it is easier for them to find work. They are more independent financially, but also in a psychological sense. It's hard to say exactly why any couple gets divorced, but the pension change has given women a stronger reason than ever to turn their thoughts into actions."

Why are retired husbands such a pain?

The Dai-ichi Life Research Institute, a private thinktank, estimates that as many as 42,000 couples could initiate divorce proceedings in the coming months; government advice bureaus report that 90% of inquiries into post-divorce pension entitlements have come from women.

Japan's otherwise enviable longevity figures mean that older women face the prospect of spending decades in the company of their retired husbands. The Japanese have one of the longest life expectancies in the world, at 78.5 years for men and 85.5 years for women. One in five people is aged 65 or over. That, coupled with the declining birthrate, means pensioners will account for 40% of the population by 2055, according to a cabinet office estimate.

Though divorce is still rare by western standards, the inability of Japanese couples to live together in retirement has spawned a genre of books with such titles as Why Are Retired Husbands Such a Pain?, as well as a fledgling industry in marriage guidance.

Hiromi Ikeuchi, director of the Tokyo Family Laboratory, says her services are in greater demand than ever, particularly among older people. "There is no end of advice in Japan for people who want to get married, but next to nothing for those who are thinking about ending their marriage," says Ikeuchi, whose centre runs monthly "divorce schools" to help people navigate the legal and financial minefield of divorcing in Japan.

Ikeuchi, who wrote The Costs and Benefits of Divorce in Middle Age after divorcing her husband 13 years ago, is clear about who is at fault. "There is almost a cultural tolerance of men having extramarital affairs in Japan, provided it doesn't destroy their marriage," she said.

"While the husband is working, it is just about acceptable because his wife has a proper role as a mother and housewife, but when he retires that all changes. Wives don't think they are being properly looked after, that their husbands simply regard them as the mother of their children. They quickly realise that they have been living separate lives for all those years."

When Yuji Tanaka proposed to his wife, he promised to help with housework and childrearing, and to talk through any problems before they became insurmountable. But married life proved very different. "Until our second child was born, I worked as a marine biologist and was often away on business trips for at least two weeks at a time," says Tanaka, 60, who sought Ikeuchi's advice.

"I was away from home about 100 days a year. My assignments included field studies in the summer, so I was spent 14 straight summer holidays away from my family. On top of that I was a union official, so my wife was practically a single mother, raising our children on her own."

Though he tried as often as possible to cook and get their children ready for school, Tanaka and his wife steadily grew apart, and never discussed family matters on the few occasions they ate dinner together. Then, on the way home from a rare trip abroad to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, his wife told him she was having an affair.

"I got depressed and started seeing a therapist, who prescribed me antidepressants," he said. "After a year my doctor gave me permission to start divorce proceedings. My wife refused to admit she was an adulterer, because as far as she was concerned our marriage had effectively ended a long time ago."

Out of the shadows

Baby boomers trapped in unhappy marriages trace the roots of their discord to the pressures of life in postwar Japan. Junko Yasukawa, 54, ignored her husband's infidelity for years before she accepted that the only remaining proof of their union was a marriage certificate.

"In a relationship it's important to acknowledge your differences and try to close the gap, but I made no effort to get to know my husband, so I guess I am also to blame for the break-up of our marriage," she says.

"People of my generation were brought up to believe that all women want most is to be loved by their husbands and, in return, to support him in whatever he does. To act like his shadow, listen to him in silence, and behave meekly. But I wasn't happy living in his shadow."

Yasukawa and other women of her generation have benefited from the loosening of family ties that once made divorce unthinkable. "They were expected to look after the home, bring up the children and nurse their in-laws in old age," said Suzuki. "Today families are much smaller so it is easier to break free after their children have grown up.

"Men must also take the blame. They expect their wives to behave like housekeepers, even leaving them to decide on important matters like choosing a school for their children. It's no wonder they are depressed by the thought of living with that same man in retirement."

But older women could be mistaken in thinking that divorce will lead to a comfortable retirement. Those who have been married only a short time will be eligible for a much smaller share than 50%; they must also wait until they have reached the retirement age of 65 before receiving any benefits. By divorcing, they relinquish their right to continue receiving lifelong payments after their husband has died.

Ikeuchi believes there is an additional social cost that many of the women she counsels have not considered. "They have effectively been holed up in the home for 30 years. They haven't been working or engaging with the rest of society, so even if they do get half of their husband's pension, they are not equipped for life on their own. Japanese society doesn't have a very positive view of older women living alone ... and they are easy targets for criminals and scam merchants. They are very vulnerable."

Doting husbands

Some men are worried enough to have made a belated attempt to compensate for years of neglect at home.

On January 31 every year, members of the Japan Doting Husbands Association arrive home from work early, at 8pm, look their wives in the eye and say "Thank you."

"It doesn't seem much, but Japanese people are generally shy about saying things like 'I love you,' even to their own wives," says Motoyasu Hashizume, a self-proclaimed doting husband. "We want to get rid of the embarrassment and create a different atmosphere among married couples.

"Of course companies have to change their ways so that men don't have to work late or feel duty-bound to go drinking with their colleagues after work, but in the meantime, there are little things we can do as individuals to make a difference."

His dream of a change in the corporate culture is unlikely to be realised soon. At least a quarter of men in their 30s work more than 60 hours a week, according to government figures, and male employees in general work almost as much overtime – often unpaid - as they did 25 years ago, despite the introduction a decade ago of a 40-hour working week. Japanese workers take, on average, just half of their 18-day paid holiday entitlement.

"I know many overworked men in their 50s who are aware of the silver divorce phenomenon, and they are very worried," Hashizume said.

No doubt their fears were heightened by a slew of media stories suggesting that any man above a certain age could be the target of expensive divorce proceedings. One weekly magazine popular among salarymen even published a list of 10 indications that their wives could be considering divorce. "Does she have a new haircut?" the Weekly Post asked. Is she "engaging in stealthy conversations with your children" or "serving you ready-made meals rather than home-cooked ones?"

Other clues may be found in her state of health. Retired Husband Syndrome, a collection of ailments identified by a Japanese doctor in the early 1990s, is though to affect as many as 60% of married women over the age of 60 who can no longer bare the sight of their husbands. Sufferers experience symptoms ranging from skin rashes and high blood pressure to stomach ulcers and the shakes. A study by the advertising firm Hakuhodo found that while 85% of men looked forward to their retirement, 40% of women were "depressed" by the prospect.

Belated proclamations of love or pleas for forgiveness are unlikely to sway Yamada, who took her claims to a family court after her now-estranged husband refused her request for a share of his pension. That she has no idea how much he paid into his pension scheme during his 40 years working for a car manufacturer is a measure of how little she knew the father of their two adult children.

"We didn't communicate at all and we never did anything together," she said. "When he wasn't at work, he was playing golf or mah jong with colleagues. Any free time he had after that he spent with his girlfriend. Why should I be made to feel like a victim? I didn't put a foot wrong for more than 30 years. I brought up our children."

The names of Yamada, Yasukawa and Tanaka have been changed at their request.

Japan's lost generation finds solace in suicide

Disaffected young people are using the internet to make pacts to end their lives

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Wednesday October 27, 2004
The Guardian

On the surface little seemed amiss in Ms A's life. Her marriage to a rock musician had failed, but at 34 she had no money worries and she loved her two children.
But she wanted to die. Earlier this month, after several failed attempts, she succeeded.

The woman, whose name is being withheld by police, was one of seven people, including four 20-year-olds, found dead two weeks ago in an estate car.

They were participants in Japan's biggest online suicide pact.
Police discovered the bodies, dressed in jeans and T-shirts, just after dawn in the mountains of Saitama prefecture, north of Tokyo.

Next to Ms A, police found a note to her children: "Mummy is going to die now, but I am happy that I gave birth to you."

None had wanted to die alone. Thanks to an emerging internet subculture they didn't need to.

The ease with which people can arrange their deaths has shocked Japan and underlines a disturbing social trend.

The country is trying to respond to record suicide rates, a phenomenon linked to what has been described as Japan's "lost generation".

Aged 15 to 34, the group is made up of people with few skills who drift from job to job or choose not to work at all.

The health ministry estimates that there are more than 500,000 of these so-called neets and the number will rise.

Ms A was not a neet, but when her pact was discovered, there were calls for the police to crack down on internet suicide sites which, critics say, entrap young people and encourage copycat attempts.

The authorities have so far resisted, citing constitutional guarantees of freedom of speech.

Though they received widespread media coverage, the 34 internet-assisted suicides recorded in Japan last year were only a fraction of the overall toll of 34,427, according to the national police agency. There have been 20 internet suicides so far this year.

Online pacts entered the public consciousness last February when a man and two women were found dead inside a vacant apartment near Tokyo.

The messages on such sites are a mixture of meaningless banter and serious invitation.

"I have had no luck ever since I was born, so I want to die," said one.

Another said: "It's hard to die alone. Is there anyone out there who can die with me?"

One site opened with an image of a graveyard beneath a stormy sky, bearing the title, "Suicide: how, where, when".

Yukiko Nishihara, director of the Suicide Prevention Centre in Tokyo, said: "Many of these people don't feel like they are truly alive. We tell them not to feel that they are alone and that they can work out their problems together, but there aren't many places they can go for professional help."

Her concerns are well-founded. People over 60 were the biggest group of victims in 2003, accounting for 33% of the total, followed by those aged in their 40s and 50s: often men who have been laid off during the recession or have fallen foul of loan sharks but there were also increases among those in their 30s and among children.

Suicides among the under-20s rose by 22% from 2002. This group is most likely to turn to the internet for suicide advice.

"Young people who feel suicidal are scared of dying alone," Ms Nishihara said. "They prefer not to talk to friends because they are afraid they might be talked out of it."

The centre's helpline receives an average of 30 calls a day, a growing number of which are from teenagers and people in their 20s. But such services are rare in Japan, where there is a deep-seated cultural aversion to discussing personal problems with strangers.

Japanese history, in contrast, treats suicide as an honourable act under certain circumstances which range from the samurai warriors who committed ritual disembowelment, to the kamikaze pilots of the second world war.

Government funds for suicide prevention were made available only in 2001 as part of plans to cut suicides to 22,000 a year by 2010.

Ms Nishihara said the government needed to do more, and criticised the media.

While she did not call for a ban on suicide sites, she said extensive reporting of their content was encouraging young people to log on. But postings on these sites offering advice on how to live suggest their purpose is being challenged.

Nevertheless, some fear it is only a matter of time before they bring together an even bigger group of people.


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Prey that ALLAH guide us all.

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New Balance 574

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We cannot always build the future for our youth , but we can build our youth for the future .

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