Start:Main Column

Atsushi Okuda, Professor, Faculty of Policy Management

To become “all together on the same side” with Arabian people through Islamic studies

When my seminar class started in the spring semester 12 years ago, 2 students came to join the class. Today, it is where more than 40 students from first-year to doctorate students study and engage in activities.

Prof. Atsushi Okuda and students

This year again, it will soon be the time for “Arab Students Welcoming Program” (ASP). This is an activity in which we invite Arab students who study Japanese in Arabic countries to SFC for two weeks, and through intensive training of writing reports and creating video clips, they interact with SFC students who study Arabic. In March 2002, SFC’s first study tour for Arabic learning was held in Aleppo, Syria. Participants of this tour wanted to express their feelings of thankfulness towards the Arab students they met in Syria, and we started to invite Arab students as an activity of the seminar class. This will be the ninth time, and we have invited almost 40 Arab students so far.

This year’s theme is “Redefining Jihad---An attempt for a hands-on academic exchange”. It may sound exaggerated, but the original meaning of “jihad” is “constant effort to create a good relation with your surroundings based on the way of Allah”. If the “way of Allah” is considered to be “realization of happiness for every person both in practical and emotional terms”, we Japanese can well deal with it. That is, developing a good relation through “studying”, a common channel for both Arabs and Japanese.

Many meetings were held before deciding on this theme. There were fears that the negative image of the word “jihad” may lead to misunderstandings for ASP, but we came to the conclusion that “developing good relations is what we have done consistently through ASP, and as a hands-on attempt to define the original meaning of jihad, we should address this through ASP”. “Act” as soon as you “learn”. This is the basis of action research. The students came to the conclusion because they seriously take on their Islamic studies, Arabic learning and various activities related to their studies. This year’s ASP that is organized by such reliable students will be held for 2 weeks starting from October 25.

(Official website of ASP: This activity as well as the Project to establish a graduate school for Japanese studies in Aleppo University is funded by Keio University “Design the Future Fund”)

Faculty's Profile

Prof. Atsushi Okuda, Faculty of Policy Management

Professor of the Faculty of Policy Management and Graduate School of Media and Governance (Chairperson of GR program). Born in 1960. Withdrawal from the Doctoral Program of the Graduate School of Law, Chuo University due to exceeding permitted period (Ph.D. in law). Specializes in Islamic law and related fields, and Arabic Language. Through research of Islamic law, he explores practically the role of the society and people in the age of globalization. Also serves as the Vice President of Japan Center for Academic Cooperation at Aleppo University, and eagerly works on academic exchange with Islamic countries.

Student's Voice
Megumi Kenjo, Third-year Student,
Faculty of Policy Management

Learning from the Islam about the fortitude to live

I started learning Arabic and joined Prof. Okuda’s seminar class from the spring semester of my first year at university. I had interest in the Palestinian problem from when I was in high school, but as I listened to presentations of fourth-year students at the seminar class and participated in study tours, and through discussions and study sessions with other students and countless guidance of Prof. Okuda in regards with my studies, I started to feel like learning from the Islam how people “live with hope even on the verge of desperation”. In deciding on my research theme, I was greatly influenced by the “Arab Students Welcoming Program” (ASP) of our seminar class. During ASP, all members of the Okuda class who are always friendly to each other like a family become vividly unified with the invited Arab students. This year, I will be leading this program. I hope to learn about “the fortitude to live” while advancing the relationship with them that has been established by fourth-year students.

*This article appeared in the 2010 autumn edition (No.268) of “Juku.”
*Position titles, etc., are those at the time of publishing.