On Tuesday, May 23, the Ritsumeikan International Society (RIS), a student group that promotes international communication, and I-START (Indonesian Student Association at Ritsumeikan University) held an event at OIC called DISCOVER Islam, to increase understanding of Islamic culture. This event was held as part of the Beyond Borders Plaza initiative, which seeks to promote international exchange and the study of foreign languages at Ritsumeikan University. On the day of the event, there were a total of 29 Japanese and international students, including members of RIS and I-START, who participated in lively discussions.
Learning Together with Muslim Students: Activity Report from RIS
To begin, I-START gave a presentation to introduce fundamental knowledge about Islam. The explanations about religious views and ways of thinking that are unfamiliar to Japanese people were very interesting to many students.
After that, the students separated into two groups, to hold discussions and experience Islamic culture. In one team, participants talked about relationships between terrorism and Islam and about Japanese and Islamic culture, asking each other frank questions about things they would otherwise not know about. One surprising discovery was how much Japanese culture resembles Islamic culture. For example, in Japan, many people pay attention to “atmosphere” and “reading in between the lines”, which is also important to Muslims, which explains how many Muslims are able to understand Japanese communication without difficulty. Japanese students were also surprised to learn that Japanese people and Muslims have different impressions of Iran, with Iran being a central country in the Islamic world and regarded in a way similar to how Japan views developed countries. It was an excellent and rare opportunity for Japanese students to hear directly from Muslim students.
The second team discussed the lifestyles of Muslims and tried wearing Islamic clothes. Topics included how many people believe that Muslims have to keep to severe rules, but it depends on the individual, as well as how there is a simple way of praying which can be done on buses and other public transportation. Japanese students enjoyed trying on the colorful hijabs (clothing used to cover the head and body) brought by the Indonesian students and learned that as long as the head and hands are covered, they can be worn in any way.
Through this event, students were able to understand many aspects of Islamic culture. To continue their collaboration, RIS and I-START are currently planning a party to celebrate the end of Ramadan as well.