American students experience cross-cultural experience during Ramadan
By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
It is already that time of the year when Muslims worldwide begin fasting a month before celebrating Hari Raya around July 6.
Students from the United States participated in the breaking fast tradition for the first time at the Islamic Information Center (IIC) on June 10th.
The four students were lead by Assistant Professor of Biology at University of Minnesota-Morris, Dr. Michael Ceballos who are in Sarawak for a five to six week study visit under the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programme.
“The programme is funded by the US National Science Foundation, so we bring undergraduates, where many of them come from racial and ethnic groups who are under-represented in the sciences,” said Dr. Michael.
“We bring them to Sarawak to engage in research projects on attachment with Unimas and UiTM. The idea is to give the students of doing research abroad, but it is also to give them a cross cultural experience,” he added.
With a total of eight students from different universities in the US, they will be spending about five to six weeks in Sarawak under the 10-week program before heading back to the US to analyse data and prepare manuscripts for publications in collaboration with Unimas and UiTM.
“Many of the students come from American Indian background and it is interesting for them to interact with the bumiputeras here,” he said.
“It is part of this programme because they have similar sort of history in terms of colonisation, and preservation of their languages and culture amidst sort of outside forces coming in.”
According to Dr. Michael, the students are involved in projects in attachment with Unimas and UiTM such as ornithology, study of aquaculture systems and fungus.
He noted that Sarawak was a special place for biology since it was a part of the areas of study for British naturalist and biologist Alfred Russel Wallace.
Dr Michael first came to Sarawak in 2011 when he was invited to give a keynote speech at the World Biodiversity Congress. From there, he met professors from UiTM and a few from Unimas.
“It is a great place and one of the most biodiverse regions in the planet, so for a biologist it is a great place to be,” he said.
This year marks the fourth batch of students that has come to Sarawak under the annual research programme.
Since it was opened in 2011, the IIC has been organising programmes, activities and information for the multi-ethnic and multi-religious population in Sarawak as part of the centre’s efforts in promoting and communicating the universality of Islam.
On June 10th, the IIC held a breaking fast with media organisations and practitioners.
Also present during the breaking fast was Assistant Minister of solidarity, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Solidarity Sarawak, Rosey Yunus, IIC Chief Executive Officer, Zabariah Hajji Matali, Director of Radio Televisyen Malaysia, Sarawak (RTM), Salmah Ibrahim Melina, invited speaker Zayn Al-Abideen Gregor as well as representatives from CATS FM, Sarawak Information Department and National Film Development Corporation (Finas).