Words cannot express my gratitude and happiness for being able to represent Malaysia as one of seven participants of Exchange with Southeast Asian Muslim Youth, held in Japan at the tail-end of November last year. It was such a beautiful experience and I have gained a lot from it.
The programme primarily focuses on tackling a variety of subject matter including Islamophobia, what Islam truly is about, the religions and cultures of Japan, as well as the practice and grasp of Islam in Southeast Asian Muslim countries. Each discussion that we had at the universities and schools we visited left us satisfied and equipped with useful information. I feel relieved because this is what is crucial, to gain mutual understanding and knowledge through study and conversation, instead of believing in mere assumptions and false news.
Frankly speaking, every aspect of our dialogue fascinated me. I was excited about sharing my opinions regarding Islam and am also happy to correct some common misconceptions. Furthermore, being able to learn about Japan’s own cultures and religions helped me to broaden my mindset. A majority of the Japanese people claimed to not have a particular religion, and this was an eye-opening talking point. It never crossed my mind that there would be a chance for me to actually speak about irreligion with such persons themselves. Of course, one cannot fail to mention the food and sight-seeing, my favourite part of the trip.
Thank you to Japan Foundation for allowing me this golden opportunity. I will continue to treasure every moment and share the details of my involvement with anyone so that they too can benefit from it.
Nurul Hafizah is an undergraduate student at International Islamic University Malaysia who successfully applied for the inaugural edition of Exchange with Southeast Asian Muslim Youth.