Australia, Malaysia Engage in Young Muslim Exchange Programme

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By Esther Tanquintic-Misa | November 5, 2012 4:47 PM EST

Six young Australians with Islamic backgrounds will be able to travel to Malaysia, and vice versa, to hone their leadership skills as well as develop a stronger understanding of other cultures and faiths after Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr signed a joint Australia-Malaysia cultural exchange programme with Malaysian counterpart, Anifah Aman, over the weekend.

The Australia-Malaysia Young Muslim Exchange Programme, based on a model Australia has made with Indonesia and Thailand, will also see participants from Malaysia flying in to Australia.

"I think it's one of the most important challenges we face today - getting a dialogue with the forces of moderate Islam," Mr Carr said.

"To a large extent, the clash we see in the world today reflected in the forces of terrorism and unrest is a clash within Islam and we want to be engaging with the forces of moderate Islam."

Observers said Australian Muslims are excited about the program's potential, noting it could help ease much of the disagreement that exist between the two Asian nations.

"This exchange programme is another clear example of how our mature cooperation engenders a collective effort which enables us to make a difference for the benefit of our people," Mr Anifah said.

"Malaysia is heartened by Australia's initiatives in closing the gap and promoting understanding between religions and communities through inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue."

Governments of both countries have yet to work on the details of the programme. It could take up to two weeks for the participants to interview, exchange and discuss with the respective leaderships.

Australia has embarked on a number of exchange programmes to encourage interfaith and intercultural understanding in countries, including Croatia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Jordan, Israel, Solomon Islands and Indonesia.

At the same time, Australia pledged to extend financial support to Helicopter Emergency Medical Services training to Malaysian medical and military personnel as well as surf lifesaving training to improve water safety in Malaysia.

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