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Japan's Ozawa: Christianity "self-righteous" - media

TOKYO (Reuters) - A top politician in Japan’s ruling Democratic Party has praised Buddhism while calling Christianity “exclusive and self-righteous” and Islam only somewhat better, domestic media reported on Wednesday.

Japan's Democratic Party's new secretary-general Ichiro Ozawa smiles during the party plenary meeting in Tokyo in this September 15, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Files

Secretary-General Ichiro Ozawa made the remarks the previous day after meeting the head of the Japan Buddhist Federation, a group traditionally close to the rival Liberal Democratic Party, which was trounced by the Democrats in an August election.

Christianity “is an exclusive and self-righteous religion. And society in the United States and Europe, which are based on Christianity, are at a dead end,” the Nikkei newspaper quoted Ozawa as telling reporters after the meeting.

“Islam is better, but it is also exclusive.”

Ozawa, seen by some as the mastermind behind the Democrats’ election win, had kinder words for Buddhism, which along with Shinto is the dominant religion in Japan, although many people take a mostly secular and eclectic view.

Christians are a tiny minority and Muslims are few in Japan.

“Buddhism teaches us from the starting point of how human beings should be, their state of mind and way of life,” he said.

Religious organisations can pack clout in Japanese politics because of their ability to mobilise voters, but politicians tend to shun public remarks about people’s beliefs.

Then-prime minister Yoshiro Mori caused a furore in 2000 when he referred to Japan as a “divine nation with the emperor at its centre”, stirring memories of the state Shintoism that helped to mobilise support for Japan’s wartime military aggression.

He later apologised publicly.

Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Rodney Joyce