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2 Aug, 2013

Fast friends: Japanese PM hosts ‘iftar’ party for Muslim nations


Tokyo, Aug 1, 2013, (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosted on Wednesday an “iftar” dinner party, inviting ambassadors and diplomats from around 40 Muslim countries to the prime minister’s office in Tokyo with the aim of deepening mutual understanding.

In opening remarks at the dinner, Abe expressed a desire to visit more Muslim nations soon, saying his recent trips to the Middle East and Southeast Asia made him realize “the unbroken bond that has been nurtured over a long period of time” between Japan and the Muslim world.

Fast friends: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe poses with sumo wrestler Osunaarashi, the first sekitori from Africa, during an ‘iftar’ dinner party at the prime minister’s office Wednesday. | KYODO

Abe introduced sumo wrestler Osunaarashi, the first sekitori from Africa, who was among the guests, as a “bridge” between Japan and the Muslim world. The wrestlers in sumo’s top two divisions, juryo and makuuchi, are referred to as sekitori.

The Egyptian sekitori, whose real name is Abdelrahman Ahmed Shaalan, has been praised in Japan for compiling a winning record in the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament earlier in the month while fasting from dawn to dusk on the days the tournament overlapped with Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting.

Algerian Ambassador to Japan Sid Ali Ketrandji, who led the Islamic diplomatic corps, said Japan and the Muslim world “have a lot in common” and he hopes to enhance “mutually beneficial collaboration” in addressing issues in the economic, social and scientific fields

Iftar is the meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast after sunset every day during Ramadan, which this year is roughly a one-month period from July 9.