Netusha Naidu - Malaysia

Winter 2016 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative / Study of the U.S. Institute on
Religious Pluralism in the United States

"The time I spent (in the SUSI/YSEALI program) was an extremely rewarding experience. When one grows accustomed to an environment that isn't as friendly to free speech, it often internalizes into expression of self-censorship. Attending (the SUSI program) with the Dialogue Institute liberated me from this notion. As much as it felt uncomfortable yet relieving simultaneously, the entire course of the program was a breath of fresh air to me as it challenged a lot of boundaries that have been in place, growing up in Malaysiaespecially when it concerns religion. I learned to not only engage in productive and intellectually stimulating dialogue, but also how to create an environment in which dialogue can flourish. Being educated on the diversity of religions affected me on a personal as well as professional level. Having always been a more a-religious person, my strongly rooted passion for freethinking allowed me to appreciate the collective spiritual essence that all religions inherently share, which improved my knowledge and understanding to embrace inclusivity. Due to my scholarly interest, learning about religious pluralism further deepened my curiosity to indulge in this area much further. Through this, I hope I will be able to contribute positively to the political religious discourse in my country in a manner that propagates humanistic values of peace, justice and egalitarianism."

Prior to her SUSI/YSEALI experience, Netusha was involved in a six-month intensive program with Universiti Kaki Lima (or in English, "Sidewalk University"), an initiative aimed at cultivating research culture beyond the walls of academia. Netusha's interest in exploring spirituality and religion led to a referral to and her interest in applying for the DI's program.

When she returned to Malaysia following her summer in the U.S., she and a friend (who was also a research fellow at Islamic Renaissance Front, a Malaysia think-tank) decided to start an alternative history project called Imagined Malaysia, focused on making marginalized and oppressed narratives of Malaysia's history more popular, and promoting greater historical literacy among Malaysia's youth.