Japanese Muslims have denounced the kidnapping of two countrymen by the extremist group Islamic State, while Tokyo scrambled to make contact with the abductors to save the victims.
Japan said on January 23 it was still trying to secure the release of the two hostages held by IS extremists after a deadline to pay ransom for their release passed and there was no immediate word on their fate, Reuters news agency reported.
Tokyo Camii mosque spokesman Shigeru Shimoyama called the actions of IS "unforgivable acts of cruelty, which fall outside the true Muslim faith."
"Taking hostages is unworthy, and these terrorists must be condemned in the strongest possible way. With their fake 'holy war ' they do nothing but destroy Islam," he said in a statement.
The government said it had yet to receive an official word from the kidnappers, who posted a video on January 20 showing Kenji Goto, 47, and Haruna Yukawa, 42, kneeling beside a black-clad hooded man.
IS threatened to kill the hostages if the Japanese government did not pay ransom worth $200 million "within 72 hours."
Shimoyama said Muslims in Tokyo are condemning the kidnapping, describing the incident as contrary to the basic tenets of Islam.
He said the IS militants continue to tarnish the reputation of Islam.
"According to the law of Allah, killing one innocent person is considered tantamount to killing all of mankind. The actions of the terrorists of the Islamic state are in contradiction with the basics of the Muslim faith or respect for human life," he said.
The Tokyo Camii spokesman feared the backlash on Islam in Japan that could be rise as the kidnapping incident developed. He said the religion has been earning skepticism and "suspicion" among the Japanese public.
"In Japan, for so long the Muslims were viewed with suspicion and were not understood," he said. "The abduction of these two compatriots will only fuel the idea that Islam is a religion for terrorists."
Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga said the country would not be cowed by the action, as it would continue to pursue efforts to combat terrorism with the international community, NBC News reported.