Malaysia Islamic group encourages discussions on faith – Khabar Southeast Asia

Five years after its founding, the Young Muslims Project is giving Kuala Lumpur’s youth a platform for discussion on faith and life.

By Hana Kamaruddin for Khabar Southeast Asia in Kuala Lumpur – 09/03/12

In Malaysia, a young man had trouble finding answers to questions that always bothered him about what he should or shouldn’t do as a Muslim in this deeply religious nation.

“Growing up in Malaysia, you are not allowed to talk about anything in Islam, let alone query about it,” Muhammad Al-Amin bin Abdul Rahman told Khabar Southeast Asia. “Questions like ‘Is there a God?’ and ‘Why do we have to pray?’ are often answered with a ‘You shouldn’t ask that!'”

Now Amin, as his friends call him, is happy to have a forum that has provided him with a platform for open discussion on these subjects, considered taboo among the religious conservative elders and parents.

Begun five years ago in Kuala Lumpur, the Young Muslims Project (YMP) has given young urbanites the opportunity to gather in a safe space where their fellows are “sincerely open to accept as well as to embrace anyone who is interested to bridge a link with Islam”.

Amin is one of the founders of YMP – an organisation that aims to develop an open and thought-provoking environment, particularly for urban youths who are interested to learn about Islam.

Their website says “in mobilising youths towards a better understanding of Islam as a way of life, YMP strives to be the leading platform to have their voices heard and inspire others to be better Muslims”.

According to Amin, before the creation of the YMP, he was confronted with uncertainties about Islam. But more frustrating was the lack of an outlet or avenue in which he could discuss them.

It was this experience that drove him and his friend Kat, to start YMP five years ago.

The inaugural gathering drew fewer than 10 people. Since then, the group’s regular bi-weekly meetings, dialogue sessions and volunteering programmes have drawn more than 4,000 members.

“It was a great start to creating a platform and environment where young urbanites could ask questions and challenge each other, in hopes that it will enable us to understand more about Islam,” Amin told Khabar.

The group hosts four kinds of programmes to cater to different interests – Funtivities, Intellectual Discourse, Open Circle and Community Service.

The Funtivities and Community Service programmes bring the members out into the community for group activities. Funtivities consist of activities like scavenger hunts, paintball, ultimate frisbee and tea parties. The latter provides a platform for youths interested in volunteering for programmes like the Soup Kitchen, held four nights a week, to help feed KL’s homeless population.

The Intellectual Discourse and Open Circle programmes, on the other hand, bring YMP members together to discuss pertinent issues of faith and everyday life. During Intellectual Discourse sessions, speakers are invited to discuss issues relating to Islam. Past speakers have included marriage counsellors, life coaches, authors and religious leaders.

During Open Circle, YMP members can continue discussions from Intellectual Discourse or start new ones in an open and non-judgmental environment.

YMP also hosts “Ladies Only” activities. During a recent Open Circle Ladies Only discussion, a large group of YMP young women opened up about hardships and confidence.

“Life seemed surreal last Sunday. Like many at the event, I hadn’t even contemplated the existence of such a welcoming and intellectual group of sisters gathering for the purpose of self-betterment,” one participant wrote on the website’s blog.

Amin said although the gatherings are open to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, they are particularly targeted to non-practicing young urbanite Muslims.

“We see this as a form of dakwah [preaching] to spread the virtues of Islam in a non-authoritative and non-condescending way. We want to lead by example and the best way is to assimilate into these youngsters’ way of life,” he added.

Since he started YMP, Amin said he has found peace with those internal conflicts over faith he once experienced. The resolution he sought in the first place wasn’t in the answers, but in the journey of seeking them, he said.

“The purpose of the YMP is not to give answers but to keep on questioning in a space where you won’t be judged or put-down for your different views. In fact, it is a place where you are free to make mistakes and learn from them.”

For more information on the group, visit their Young Muslims Project BlogSpot or Facebook page.

  • Amin, a dancer for Madonna, entertains members of the Young Muslims Project (YMP) at an Open Circle event held by the group. Amin, a Frenchman who converted to Islam, claims to have had discussions about faith with the singer. [Photo: Courtesy of Young Muslims Project] Amin, a dancer for Madonna, entertains members of the Young Muslims Project (YMP) at an Open Circle event held by the group. Amin, a Frenchman who converted to Islam, claims to have had discussions about faith with the singer. [Photo: Courtesy of Young Muslims Project]
  • In a typical setting for Open Circle, youths gather at a follower’s residence and discuss topics related to Islam.  [Photo: Courtesy of Young Muslims Project]  In a typical setting for Open Circle, youths gather at a follower’s residence and discuss topics related to Islam. [Photo: Courtesy of Young Muslims Project]
  • At a FUNtivity event, YMP followers fly kites at a park north of Kuala Lumpur. The organisation also has Intellectual Discourse discussions and Open Circle keynote speaker events, in addition to performing community service activities. [Photo: Courtesy of Young Muslims Project] At a FUNtivity event, YMP followers fly kites at a park north of Kuala Lumpur. The organisation also has Intellectual Discourse discussions and Open Circle keynote speaker events, in addition to performing community service activities. [Photo: Courtesy of Young Muslims Project]

This article can be read at Khabar Southeast Asia.

About Hana Kamaruddin

Mommy, journalist, copywriter, cook and running enthusiast.
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