Four debaters share common experience that shaped their lives

By Nurfatihah Irdina

PAGOH, 21 December 2020: Debating has always been seen an activity stereotyped to endless argument, long hours of chattering about a certain topic, regardless of its disposition in catching audience’s interest and seeing participants brazing to prove a point.

That perspective has somewhat changed with the virtual webinar conducted by Arabic Debate Club of International Islamic University, Pagoh campus recently in conjunction with World Arabic Language Day.

The fruitful two-hour event has enlightened viewers with knowledge that when it comes to debating, there is more than meets the eye and a story behind bold figures speaking out loud in front of a crowd they barely know.

The feeling of nervousness that comes from the hope of not forgetting the facts and scripts memorised the night before the event and being astounded by other debaters to the point “as if you are debating with your inner self.”

This is an an unforgettable affair where all debaters including both experienced and budding debaters of today shares.

Coming from various countries: Qatar, Japan, Turkey and Indonesia four students from different walks of life gathered yesterday (20 December 2020) to share something they have in common- life in and out of debating.

A 2017 semi-finalist in Qatar International University Arabic Debating Championship, Abdul Rahim Ellias shared that his interest in debate followed a proficiency acquired in Bahasa Melayu and having grown up in a debating environment with the help of his parents.

Abdul Rahim told the audience that at first he did not have the skills to debate in Arabic, especially being a non-native speaker. It was difficult but having love towards the language brought him to discover more about debate.

“I attempted to polish up my debating skills by combining my Bahasa Melayu and an interest in Arabic language. Over time, I managed to excel in both, but I knew it wasn’t enough because throughout the entire course of joining various debate competitions, I discovered that the real deal in utilising my linguistic skills was debating with a native Arabic speaker,” Abdul Rahim shared.

“On top of that, I also met a few debaters who looked down on me, giving me side-eyes when I walked past them. Since then, I realised that I must not give up. While it was challenging, the experience had definitely sharpened my focus to deliver a better argument the next time I debate.”

Listed in the top five best speakers in 2015 Musleh Arabic International Debate Championship was Hibah Yeoh who is currently pursuing her studies in mechanical engineering at Gifu College in Japan.

Hibah shared that her experience in debating was “a room for growth.” She said: “I am currently moving into another phase of life where debating is out of the image, but the memory attached to it is something that I will forever cherish because without debating I wouldn’t have become the woman I am today.

“In some ways, debating has moulded me into a brave person, unafraid to speak my mind which is especially important when you move to a new country.

“Unlike Malaysians, Japanese people are reserved because it is somewhat ingrained in their culture. In that sense, debating has helped me break the walls and be confident to speak in Japanese allowing me to fit into their society pretty well.

“Living in a society where you are an Asian Muslim, wearing a hijab, studying in a foreign country has made me vulnerable to prejudice. With debating, I can put myself out there,” said Yeoh.

Meanwhile, Nor Athirah Mursyidah who took part in Student Mobility Outreach Programme in Gontor, Indonesia in 2019, also shared her experience saying that debating became a useful platform where she discovered her roots in communication.

“I pictured myself as a medical student for a long time, but at the end of the day, I found myself pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Arabic for International Communication.

“Disappointed, angry at myself because I thought I was going nowhere. Not until I was introduced to debate when it all came to life. I have been learning Arabic ever since I was seven years old. I forgot most of what I learned in secondary school but joining the debate team in the university had rekindled the passion I used to have for Arabic.

“It takes commitment to accept my fate but today I believe Allah has a better plan for me,” shared Athirah.

The last speaker of the event, a first place and best debater in UIN Maulana Malik Ibrahim Malang, Indonesia in 2018, Muhammad Syamim, shared that even without experience in debate, it didn’t hurt to give debate a try.

“Unlike other debaters we have listened to, I didn’t start out early in debating. In fact, it all began when I was 16. I was an introvert who never speaks in class, I observed the crowd from a distance, never the one to sit where my teachers could notice me.

“My life took a detour when one day, I was forced to volunteer to represent my school in a debating competition. As I didn’t want to disappoint my teachers, I did what I needed to do.

“Looking back, I am glad that I volunteered because through debating I learned that the world is big, I have unearthed cultures of various countries. All in all, debating is really an eye-opener,” Syamim shared. ***

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