A delegation of five young Australian Muslim community leaders paid a two week visit to Indonesia from 16 to 28 May under the Muslim Exchange Program (MEP) 2016.

Two delegates, Mr Aamon Sayed and Mr Feroz Sattar were selected from Sydney while three delegates Ms Nada Kalam, Ms Faten Mohamed and Ms Yasmin Moussa were selected from Melbourne.

Facilitated by the Australian Embassy in Jakarta the Australian MEP delegates travelled to three cities in Indonesia (Jakarta, Bandung & Yogyakarta), where they visited various Indonesian institutions including mosques and community centres and attended various meetings with the Indonesian Muslim community.

While being interviewed by the Indonesian media they talked highly of religious freedom in the Australian multicultural society to live Islam including the freedom to wear hijab in all educational, professional and governmental institutions.

However Nada Kalam talked of some difficult situations when Muslim community came under pressure whenever there was media hype about terrorism, locally or overseas. “When major events like the Sydney Hostage crisis occurred, immediately all Muslims were blamed and ostracized”, she said.

Faten Mohamed pointed out some of the weaknesses in the Australian Muslim Community. “Muslims are still organized on the basis of their ethnicity where many mosques are run by people from the same country of origin”, she said.

The delegation members fully participated and enjoyed their two week long visit and thanked the facilitators as well as their hosts for making the program a great success.

“I am so grateful for being selected for the Muslim Exchange Program this year and this is the most well thought out and well organised program”, Faten Mohamed said at the conclusion of the program.

“Learning about the work of the various Indonesian community organisations we have had the pleasure of visiting has been truly inspirational”, She added.

Funded by the Australian Government and run through the Australia-Indonesia Institute (AII), MEP was established in 2002 in order to build links between Muslim communities in Australia and Indonesia.

The program is designed to build greater awareness among the Indonesian participants of Australia’s multicultural society and a greater awareness among the Australian participants of the nature of mainstream Islam in Indonesia.

So far almost 60 Australian and 140 Indonesian young leaders including writers, academics, professionals and workers in non-government and religious organisations have participated in the Australia Indonesia Muslim Exchange Program.

A brief profile of the MEP delegates is as follows:

Ms Faten Mohamed is currently employed at Darebin City Council in Melbourne as a Community Development Officer and has an Honours Degree of Social Sciences from the RMIT University.

Ms Nada Kalam is an Electrical and Instrumentation Engineer, currently working as a Transformation Business Analyst for WorleyParsons in Melbourne.

Ms Yasmin Moussa is a Bachelor of Law/Arts student at Victoria University, in Melbourne and volunteers for the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s (ASRC).

Mr Aamon Sayed is based in Sydney and works in positive reinforcement and creative approaches in mentoring youth.

Mr Feroz Sattar is a community advocate and the current president of Mission of Hope based in Sydney.