Born in Bangladesh, Noman studied computer science in the University of Dhaka. He knows C++ and now programs in Android Java. He has lived in Japan for 10 years and currently works in product management for a well-known Japanese company. I met him while we were both in transit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Q: What’s been your experience being a Bangladeshi Muslim engineer in Tokyo?
NH: Most people [immigrants like me] come to Japan for higher education or to find work. People with science backgrounds don’t have as many job opportunities in their own countries, and Japan offers opportunities.
Q: You are a pious Muslim and visibly so. Have you ever experienced discrimination in Japan?
NH: Many Japanese don’t like people outside of Japan, and it is still a very closed society. Nevertheless, there are over 300 mushollas [informal prayer places] in Japan. I speak Japanese, but it’s difficult because the Japanese are not direct in their communications. They don’t like making direct demands, and their communication style is indirect. At the same time, no one bothers anyone else because of religious or other differences. I have heard in the USA, some people might bother you because of the way you look, but in Japan, no one bothers you. Personally, I’m an introvert, and Japan is a good fit for me.
I suppose the older Japanese generation is less friendly than the younger generation. When I've sat next to senior citizens on the train, they've assumed I don’t speak Japanese [and made derogatory comments], and sometimes they've gotten up and walked to a different seat.
Q: What do you like about Japan, as someone who’s lived there for 10 years?
NH: It’s very clean, and most of the people are very gentle. In general, the Japanese are very disciplined, very honest, and good at customer service. I also like Tokyo’s train system very much. And of course, no one bothers you if you’re different.
Q: What attracts you to Islam?
NH: I was born into a Muslim family, and my parents would talk to me about Islam. They would talk about the Creation. I was very impressed when I asked questions about the Creation from scholars at several mosques, and they provided me with the answers I was seeking. Let me try to explain. Think about the soul. The physical body passes away or atrophies. Islam helped me understand everything is there even after the physical body has departed, and even if we do not actively see it. That something is the soul, which enters into a different world.
So this world is very short, and there are really two worlds: one we live in now, and an afterlife. We humans can be remembered at most for three or four generations, so the purpose of life, if we are humble enough to admit it, is to act in a way that comes from true intentions. If we think of ourselves as having a purpose of worshipping Allah, it can give us a different perspective. For me, no other theory explained what happens when the physical departs. This world, the one we live in now, is a time for being tested. God has made different kinds of people, white, black, rich, poor. This is Allah’s way of giving us an exam and finding out which souls are more obedient to Him.