By JOOHI TAHIR
No Muslim Left Behind, what does that really mean? To a large group of Muslims with disabilities and their families living in North America, it means that they want to be included in their communities.
When asked, a mother with tears in her eyes after Eid Salat in the Western Suburbs, stated that this had been the first time in 15 years that she was been able to pray in a masjid on the day of Eid. This is something many families take for granted as they enjoy family time and celebrate with their communities on every Holiday. It was by Allah’s Mercy and the help of MUHSEN (Muslims Understanding & Helping Special Education Needs) volunteers, that this mother of two grown Special Needs children, was able to have the help and assistance she needed to attend Eid prayers.
Launched just over a year ago and founded by prominent Scholar Sheikh Omar Suleiman, MUHSEN set out to remosque many Muslim families. Whether physical, neurological, or emotional, many disabilities cause one to be unable to access certain events and situations if supports are not present. In addition, if the general community members themselves are not educated or aware, that often causes one to feel unwelcome.
One major initiative this year is the Masjid Certification Program whereby masajid nationwide can work with MUHSEN to enable their centers to become more welcoming for members with disabilities, young and old. Various criteria points must be met in order to receive certification in areas such as Masjid Accessibility in Prayer and Wudu areas, Specialized Childcare for events, Braille Qurans and Youth Training to name a few. In an effort to start this, many local area masajid are making strides.
In March, MCC Youth Council, Sisters Steppin’ Up, and MUHSEN held a Youth Training session on ‘Dealings and Interactions with people with Disabilities’. This type of program has been successful in building relationships among our youth with sensitivity and creating friendships for some children who are often isolated.
Another Masjid Certification goal has been to start the creation of Special Needs Classes in our Islamic Weekend Schools. Here, students with disabilities have specialized curricula, materials to support their learning style and one on one instruction. To date, there are two such classes up and running in Chicagoland every week: Al Falah Academy, Naperville and Muslim Leadership Academy, Villa Park, IL, both of whom are part of CIOGC member organizations ICN and IFS.
Islam teaches us that these individuals with disabilities are signs from Allah (SWT) and are placed among us to test us and remind us to be grateful and of His Power and Mercy, that He is able to do all things.
MUHSEN will be busy during Autism awareness month as they participate in the Chicago Autism Walk on the Lakefront on Saturday, May 14, 2016. Team MUHSEN was the 3rd largest team last year and was given recognition.
Joohi Tahir is the Executive Director of MUHSEN. She is a former Marketing Executive who has always had a personal passion to advocate for Muslims with Disabilities, as a mother of a child with a disability