ISNA Co-Sponsors Conference to Make Mosques More Inclusive to Deaf Community
(Jan 13, 2012) As a part of ISNA’s ongoing efforts to provide quality education to the community about Islam and create environments in our mosques and Islamic centers that are inclusive and empowering to all, ISNA co-sponsored the Deaf Muslim Family conference last weekend in Virginia. Current and past ISNA Presidents Imam Mohamed Magid and Dr. Ingrid Mattson both attended the event, organized by Global Deaf Muslim, and have been very active in their own communities to make them more inclusive.
The event (1) provided the tools needed for Muslim parents with deaf children, other relatives, educators, and allies to better communicate with their children and become aware of useful resources available to them (2) promoted awareness on how parents educate and expose their deaf children to Islam rather than culturalizing them (3) provided good tips on learning and understanding American Sign Language [ASL] and (4) provided resources and advice for how to obtain and transmit information in school, mosques, and at home through ASL or other translated services.
Imam Magid stressed the importance for our leaders and communities to make it a highest priority to develop programs and accommodations, such as a sign language interpreter during Friday prayers, to better include our deaf community members. Many of them currently attend prayers without the ability to hear and learn from the knowledge that is passed along each Friday.
This step, in particular, is a very easy one to make and will go a long way to better include our deaf community members. ADAMS Center, to which Imam Magid is the Executive Director, has already taken the next step to resolve this issue in their community and are now providing sign-language interpreters during prayer and have instituted interpreted classes in Islam for deaf Muslims, led by Dr. Muhammad Alvi. Dr. Alvi spoke at the conference about the experience. “I found that I had to start from the basics,” he said, “because there was so much knowledge they had been prevented from receiving.” His class has gained immense popularity, and his students are eager to learn, always asking questions.
Dr. Mattson spoke about the Islamic perspective on deafness and the role that our community should play with respect to deaf Muslims. In particular, she notes our responsibility as people of faith to protect the diverse needs of our communities by reflecting that diversity in our leadership. Our ability to see the needs of others is limited by our own perspective, she says, therefore, if our leadership is not reflective of our diverse community, many people’s needs will continue to go unnoticed and unfilled.