The following letter from Arif Babul is his response to this week’s post Challenges facing Deaf Ismailis around the world, and what the Jamat can do to support them. The editor felt that the letter should receive a wider readership than it might get in the feedback section of the Deaf article; hence this separate post.
By ARIF BABUL
I applaud Simerg for drawing attention to this extremely important issue [Deaf Ismailis] that goes to the heart of inclusivity within our community. And, I am delighted – thrilled – to read about the fledgling efforts to reach out our hearing-challenged brothers and sisters. Definitely a step in the right direction!! But, I would like to highlight that in addition to deaf Ismailis, there are Ismailis with other challenges who also find it very difficult to immerse themselves as deeply in the Jamatkhana (JK) and communal activities as they want. Sometimes these are due to barriers that the rest of us have created (and maintain) because we view their challenges as a negative, a result of karma, or whatever.
I would encourage your readers to query themselves: Do we hold implicit or explicit biases? And do these cause us to act in way that causes hurt or just deprives others of feeling like they are valued members of our jamat? Our ethics are clear on this: It is the duty of each and everyone of us to act in a way that brings a spark of hope (and happiness) to others. On this note, I would like to draw attention to one particular progressive jurisdiction that is showing the rest of us the way: UK. There are JKs in the UK where the front row is reserved for deaf people who are able to lip read so they can read Mukhi/Kamadias’ (M/K) and the reciters’ lips during JK. And on a handful of occasions, a student with Downs Syndrome has been appointed Student Majalis M/K.
Date posted: July 10, 2020.
Arif Babul is distinguished Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.
He has contributed numerous articles to Simerg, including a highly interesting multi-part interview. We invite our readers to read them by clicking on the following links:
1. Arif Babul in Coversation with Simerg (multipart)
2. Midnight Meditation
3. Khwaja Nasir Tusi’s Tales (I Wish I’d Been There Series)
4. Eyewitness Account and Photos of 2017 Total Solar Eclipse
5. Photos in article Ismaili Castles in Syria
6. BBC Episode: Journey to the Centre of the Earth
External Link: We invite our readers to read The Ismaili article Dismantling the Barriers of Disability The featured photo at top of this post is from the article.
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Well stated, Shiraz. Yours is a much more eloquent call-to-action than my quick letter! Your thoughts bring to mind an all-too-common response: Well, we [as a community] already contribute to the empowerment of peoples living parts of the world with less opportunities than Canada (or the US or Europe). That is not, and cannot be, sufficient. Nor is it sufficient to point to the Center for Pluralism’s website. Words without action ring hollow. You hit the nail on the head when you wrote that the question “what have I enabled others to achieve?” – is a powerful call to action. It is a key theme that has reverberated throughout our history and is central to nearly all watershed moments in our history, including Imam Hussein’s journey to Kufa.
On this auspicious day, it is worth reflecting on the fact that in his Takhtnashini message, Mawlana Hazar Imam committed himself to empowering us, his murids. In numerous speeches and Farmans over the past 63 years, he has also called on us to do the same to ask the very question your pose. And not just over there. We are duty-bound to also strive to improve the very societies we live in. his means actively seeking to transform Canada into a genuine pluralistic, just society. And, by extension, it means actively striving to transform our own community so that each and every murid can experience a sense of belonging and beauty in all its richness.
Immensely happy to read this piece and suggestions to help the challenged, and to brighten their lives and be even more active in all spheres of Jamati programs
On this auspicious Day, a Mubarak shout-out to Arif, particularly and emphatically for highlighting Inclusivity, in a more profound, pluralistic sense.
Accessibility is more than just a ramp! Barriers to quality of life for the challenged Ismaili are physical and non-physical, visible and invisible, including (crucially) the attitude of each and every member of the Jamath.
Alhamdulillah we live in a country, a just society, that has embraced the same no-compromise values and ethics, the same social justice imperative, which was perfected some 1,390 years ago in our Tariqa. How do we as murids answer Arif’s challenge? The notion of social conscience in Islam – “not only what did I achieve but also what have I enabled others to achieve” – is a powerful force for change. It is a call to duty. To help build in the powerless the capacity to become masters of their destiny, masters of the process. It is a “sacred religious imperative” to grow, to care for and nurture constantly, an enabling environment: One which not tolerates, not accepts, but embraces (unconditionally and with no compromise) inclusion,outreach, awareness, education, volunteers and ambassadors. It resonates with the call to “professionalize volunteers” and “volunteerize professionals”.
Imamat Day Mubarak to my brothers and sisters, with an emphatic cri de coeur: What will I do differently from now on?