“Allah did not leave us behind - He is giving everyone the chance to fulfil Amanah towards us,” was the message delivered by Sa’diyya Nesar, Hong Kong based disability advocate, to the 2nd Annual Global Conference on Disability and Islam held online on Saturday, September 25th.
The conference themed ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’ attracted attendees from across the world and was hosted by DEEN Support Services, a Canadian charity founded by Muslims with disabilities.
“All humans - whether disabled or not - belong to Allah and return to Him,” said Sa’diyya Nesar in her keynote address to the conference titled, ‘The Right to Belong and Heal - Amanah towards People with Disabilities.’”
“Our right to belong can never be taken away from us. A lack of belonging in one gathering does not mean we do not belong in any gathering.”
Sa’diyya Nesa is a disability advocate, TEDx speaker, poet and author of 'Strength from Within.'
“Remember Him when excluded in order to heal,” advised Nesar. “Our wellbeing is an amanah from Allah (SWT) for everyone including ourselves. Leave environments where people try to make you doubt your experience. Gaslighting ultimately harms health.”
The conference organizers spoke of the need for acceptance of persons with disabilities and inclusion in the community.
“It is essential that Muslim leadership recognize that Muslims with disabilities are present in their communities and there is a social and spiritual obligation on them to ensure that Muslims with disabilities are fairly and equitably included in all aspects of the community. This Conference embodies the principle of, ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’,” said the CEO of DEEN Support Services, Rabia Khedr.
“The Conference is for people of all faiths, especially those who interact with Muslims with disabilities. We want to cultivate a broader cultural understanding and mutual respect concerning the inclusion of people with disabilities through strategic partnerships and collaborations with both Muslims, people of other faiths and non-faith affiliations,” added Rafia Haniff-Cleofas Conference Coordinator.
DEEN Support Services operates a number of programs and services in Mississauga, Ottawa and Scarborough and serves people with disabilities regardless of religion, language and culture. DEEN stands for Disability Empowerment Equality Network.
The success of their virtual programs over the past year led to the charity to organize a second global conference this year.
“The idea of the conference was sparked last year, by the tremendous success of our virtual service to the community during this pandemic, when DEEN ran a series of Webinars on Disability and Islam,” said Rafia Haniff-Cleofas. “The success of these webinars made us realize the ease of global connection that was available to us through online platforms like ZOOM. It was during that time that launching a global conference on disability and Islam became a possibility for us – and from then, we planned a hugely successful first conference, and here we are, hosting the second year of this dynamic conference!”
The day-long conference brought together service providers, academics, Islamic scholars, and disability advocates, for a day of learning, sharing and networking.
“I hope that you will gain a better understanding of the issues and challenges faced by Muslims with disabilities in the community, to take an active role in addressing these issues and ensuring full inclusion for all,” Haniff-Cleofas told the attendees.