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Photo credit:  Photodune

Muhsen making mosques disabled-friendly

Photo credit:  Photodune

Photo credit: Photodune

By Mahvish Irfan

While the masjid is supposed to upon its doors to all people, those who are handicapped might not even be able to fit through it—literally. There simply isn’t accommodation.

In the vast majority of masjids and Islamic centers across the country, accommodation for disabled Muslims is scarcely considered. Whether the disablement is physical, intellectual, emotional or neurological, individuals suffering are painfully isolated from their Muslim communities, as are their families.

Muhsen (Muslims Understanding and Helping Special Education Needs) has come to make a change to that. Founded by Islamic scholar Omar Suleiman, run by Executive Director Joohi Tahir, and supported by a team of advisors and volunteers, this non-profit umbrella organization launched in September 2014 is moving beyond the borders of advocacy and awareness to create actual change nationwide.

Tahir tells Muslim Observer, “Muhsen will advocate, educate, train and implement programs and services nationwide to improve access to masajids for disabled and special needs individuals. We are striving to create a better understanding of disabilities in our communities and building a better future for these special people of Jannah where they are welcomed, their needs are addressed and they are accepted by all.”

Tahir, a mother of three daughters, including a 15-year-old who is autistic, says that her experiences in masjids with her disabled daughter have been “very unwelcoming” through the years. Adults stare. Children run away. Parents wonder why she even came.

“I felt a disconnect, like I couldn’t go to the masjid with my child who has a disability. I’m sure I wasn’t alone and there are other people experiencing this.”

When on a Hajj trip with her husband in 2012, she describes a “destined meeting with Shaykh Omar” where he learned more about the couple by serving as their Hajj guide. He resonated with their struggles of having a disabled loved one who is constantly stigmatized by the Muslim community.

“He understood our plight,” Tahir continues, “because his mother faced disabilities.” Due to cancer and strokes, Suleiman’s mother suffered from a host of serious medical problems including trouble hearing, speaking and walking. Witnessing the challenges and insensitivities his mother faced while growing up, he grew determined to make a change in today’s Muslim centers.

A few months after the Hajj trip, Suleiman met Tahir in Chicago and Muhsen was born soon thereafter. Tahir, who recently left her job to work fulltime as the Executive Director at Muhsen, is the central person running the show.

From “social media, event planning, program development, surveying services, school communication, marketing, fundraising, I’m really handling everything right now,” she says, but is currently expanding her network of volunteers.

On March 15, 2015, Muhsen successfully crowdfunded $141,683 on LaunchGood, exceeding the original goal of $135,000. Money will go towards legal registration, marketing and administration, media and public relations, community consulting, professional fees and advocacy.

Though still in its developmental stage, Muhsen has composed a comprehensive list of programs they aim to implement in Muslim communities nationwide. Some examples include forming counseling and support groups, a help hotline phone number, peer buddy programs, awareness and education forums, parenting workshops and much more.

For masjids in particular, surveys are being carried out to determine if they are “Special Friendly” and to gain insight on how they can be better equipped. Muhsen intends on helping provide interpretation (American sign language) for khutbas and events, a “Quiet Room” for families in need that can utilize the space for their worship, closed captioning, and much more.

“The greatest challenge has been getting regular people involved,” Tahir relays, “because they think it’s an organization just for people with disabilities. I disagree. Muhsen is actually more for people without disabilities ….We need help from those who are not disabled.”

Facing ignorance about how to care for disabled loved ones and how widespread disability is is also a major concern. Tahir states, “We’ve met people that have been taught that it’s [disability] is a curse, or we should hide that individual because it’s ‘bad luck.’ These kinds of taboo things are all based in lack of education. It has no basis in Islam.”

She also raises awareness of the fact that the number of people affected with disabilities is overwhelming and burgeoning. She explains, “We have seen a huge increase in the number of people affected with disabilities. 1 in 68 people are on the autism spectrum in this country. 1 in 700 births are Down syndrome births. 4 in 1,000 births have cerebral palsy.

These statistics are staggering and the numbers are just growing, so if we as a Muslim community think this isn’t going to affect our loved ones, we’re mistaken, because it’s across the board. Disability is not going to differentiate between Muslim or non-Muslim. These statistics are real life numbers and growing. Disability in general is growing across the nation. We have to believe it’s going to affect our community and it is.”

To support Muhsen’s phenomenal nationwide movement, follow them on facebook.com/muhsenorg and Twitter @muhsenorg.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I29)

Sultans of Science: Yours’ To Rediscover At IDC Downtown Houston

Sultans of Science Exhibition At IDC (A)

The world famous Exhibition called “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered”, has opened on Wednesday, July 01, 2009 at the Islamic Da`wah Center (IDC), located at 201 Travis Street, Downtown Houston, Texas 77002. “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” is a global touring exhibition celebrating the contributions of Muslim scholars in science and technology during the golden age of the Islamic world and the influence their inventions and contributions have had on our modern day society. The exhibition is very interactive, with sensory displays, and enticing designs and presentations.

With the summer break, the “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” Exhibition is especially beneficial for Youth to attend. Organized by Liberty Science Center and MTE Studios, the Exhibition will run from July 01 till September 07, 2009. Hours of Admission and Fees to the Exhibition are: Monday to Thursday 10am – 7pm; Friday Closed; Saturday 10am – 7pm; and Sunday 12pm – 5pm. Tickets online at http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ are $15 (Adults); $10 (Children) and at the IDC Box Office $20 (Adults); $10 (Children). All tickets are for single entry: Special Groups Field Trips and School Groups require Reservation.
A Pre-Opening Celebration event was held last Friday, where several influential local political, professional and social leaders were present. Ameer Abuhalimeh, Executive Director of IDC welcomed everybody and read the message of famous basketball player Hakeem Olajuwan, who is President and Founder of IDC (he is presently in Jordan). Keynote Remarks came from City of Houston Councilmember, the Honorable M J Khan and Mayoral Proclamation was given by Minnette B. Boesel, the Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs.

Consul Generals of Pakistan, India, Egypt and Great Britain were present. Everyone was mesmerized to see the depth of information in a most interactive manner provided to the attendees. “It is a must to attend exhibition for all Houstonians’ and Americans,” said the Former Honorary Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Joanne King Herring.

For further information, one can visit http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ or call 713-223-3311.

Hundreds Thronged Rice University for 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Region Conference

bill white Fourth of July saw a Major Islamic Conference coming to Rice University Houston: This was the 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Central Region Conference. Several hundred families came from Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere to attend this one day event, whose theme was: “Serve Humanity for the Love of Divinity”. “Not only the theme was unique, but after attending various lectures and segments, I am convinced that all the speeches at the Conference had distinctive message and it was conveyed by all the speakers in a unique manner, which I have never felt at other Islamic Conferences. One needs to get the DVDs and CDs of this Conference for future reference and study,” said one of the regular attendee of the many Islamic Conferences in the Greater Houston Region.

Renowned scholars like Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan; Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan; Imam Omar Suleiman; Imam Khalid Griggs; Imam Yousuf Estes; Dr. Zahid Bukhari; Dr. Muhammad Yunus; Dr. Mazhar Kazi; Sheikh Nisar-ul-Haq; Hafiz Tauqeer Shah; Sheikh Wazir Ali; Samid AL-Khatib; Reverand Kimberley; and many more, mesmerized the audiences with excellent presentations that had practical solutions to various issues facing communities nationwide in USA, as far as volunteering and assisting humanity is concerned.

“Window to Islam” Morning Session brought some Non-Muslims with Muslims and the Chapel besides Rice Memorial Ley Student Center was packed with people of all ages, as they understood the basics of Islam and learnt from Imam Yousuf Estes as to why he became Muslim. Other topics included “Islam: Not just a Middle Eastern Religion”; “The History of Relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims” and “Interfaith Panel Q-&-A”.

Special “Young Muslims Conference” in the afternoon drew many youth in the community to learn their very crucial role in the society, like “Lead Your Friends to Humanity for Your Lord”; “Islam: A Religion That Came on the Shoulders of Youth”; “Muslim Youth: Serving Humanity”; “Muslim Youth is Ready to Face Challenges”; and much more.

The main topics discussed in the Central Programs included “The Islamic Solutions to Contemporary Social Problems, like the Declining Family System”; “Dawah and Relief Go Hand in Hand”; and “Deliverance Through Service”.

Sumptuous food was served by Lazzezza Restaurant. For more information and getting Conference material, one can call Omer Syed, Secretary of ICNA Houston at 713-253-4599.

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