Emel Feature Interview: Muslim Deaf Culture

Emel, a British lifestyle magazine that celebrates contemporary British Muslim culture, today featured an interview with Owais Murad, founder of the Muslim Deaf Group.

“Once a month a unique meeting takes place at the Regents Park Mosque in London. Despite attendees numbering over a hundred and the very lively discussion, the meeting is conducted in near silence. This is because BSL- British Sign Language- is the mode of communication. The participants share their experiences with Suma Din and Seema Ahmad and provide an insight into the workings of the Muslim Deaf Group and deaf culture.

Owais Murad is founder of the Muslim Deaf Group. He is married and lives in Leicester with his wife and four children. He works as a consultant in facilitating def peoples’ needs. “I had been thinking about setting up a group for Muslim deaf people since 1993. It is difficult for us to get hold of books about Islam and many hearing people think there is no need for us to find out about Islam because they feel sorry for us. They think we don’t need to bother because we are deaf. But in my view, deaf people should have access to all the information that is available to hearing people.

So, in 1994 I produced a leaflet advertising an Eid party at Regents Park Mosque. Since then we continued having Eid parties in other cities in the north of England. In April 2001, four of us set up the Muslim Deaf Group; Abdullah Islam (a Scottish convert who is an interpreter), Mahraban, Solomon Riley. Khalid Ashraf and I have been holding monthly meetings for the deaf in Regents Park Mosque since then. We welcome everyone to our meetings, of any race or background. We currently have Hindus, Christians, Jews and Muslims who attend.

The meetings are organized by Khalid and I. We choose a topic we feel is suitable. Sometimes it is about general Islam, for example ‘What it means to be a Muslim?’ At other times we choose a topic related to what is happening in the world and society. We use relevant verses from the Qur’an and Hadith – sayings of the Prophet Muhammad – to illustrate the main points of our talk. This is followed by a question session at the end. Occasionally Khalid and I will do a role-play to help explain some points.

We have many plans for future projects. One of the projects I would like to develop is to have the Qur’an in BSL [British Sign Language] on video. I would also like to have Muslim children’s storybooks in BSL on video. There are many other needs too, such as having a Muslim scholar conversant in BSL, and having a female Muslim interpreter to answer deaf women’s personal questions.

We need to keep up our work and expand and cultivate the impact and the Muslim Deaf Group has made. More and more deaf people are interested in joining our meetings. Many are not very confident when they start, however after a few months you can see the changes in them. Some women start to wear a head covering even though we never tell them to. Others have said how much they love coming along to our meetings, making new friends and learning about Islam”.

Khalid Ashraf is Cofounder of Muslim Deaf Group. He is an Access Consultant working for JMU Access Partnership and lives in Leeds. “When I was growing up, I learnt about Islam through my family, friends, the mosque and the Young Muslims UK. Many deaf people aren’t as fortunate as I was and are hungry to learn about Islam. After we set up the group in London we held events in Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester and Leeds. So far we have reached over three hundred people. Among the topics we’ve discussed are social life, politics, and women’s issues. The attendees were most interested in women’s issues and were amazed about gender equality.

We desperately need a Muslim Deaf group in every major city. Outdoor trips can also have a big impact. In 1999 we invited a group of deaf people to attend a Muslim camp in Malvern, Worcestershire. We arranged for them to be accompanied by an interpreter and they enjoyed it immensely. It was hugely refreshing for them to take part in the experience.”

Sahera Khan has been attending the meetings since their inception in 2001. She works as a Deaf Learning Support Assistant at a secondary school and is a part-time British Sign Language Tutor and is studying AS level Religious Studies.

“The Muslim Deaf Group is the only place deaf Muslims can access discussions about Islam. There is a large deaf Muslim community living in the UK but they face many barriers which prevent them from being involved in the community. For example, they can’t always communicate with other people who don’t know BSL and they lack access to the mosques as there are no interpreters there. There is not enough awareness amongst the hearing Muslim community about deaf people and sign language for them to communicate with us.
The Muslim Deaf Group has been a big support in my life. It helped me develop my knowledge of Islam and I recently took an exam in GCSE Islamic Studies. I have been introduced to the history of Islam and various issues related to it. The speakers at the talks are always very clear and explain topics well. I enjoy meeting new people at the meetings and we have arranged trips and visits together. I have discovered a fun and supportive community through the Muslim Deaf Group.”

For further information about the Muslim Deaf Group contact:Muslim Deaf Group c/o Murad Association The Business Centre2nd Floor, 4-18 Crafton StreetLeicester LE1 2DEEmail: owaismurad@hotmail.comMinicom: 0116 2128060Fax: 0116 2620497SMS: 079472011141 “

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