News & Islam News Launch of BSL Khutbah Service Tuesday 21st April 2009 Friday prayers translated into British Sign Language An exciting new service has been launched in Tower Hamlets to engage deaf and hard of hearing Muslims in Friday prayers. For the first time ever the Khutbah at the East London Mosque was translated into British Sign Language on Friday (17 April), enabling deaf Muslims to participate fully in the service. The translation was organised by local charity Al-Isharah, working in partnership with the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre and Tower Hamlets Council. At the launch event, which was attended by over two hundred people, Al-Isharah Director Sadaqat Ali spoke about how much this new service will mean to the borough's deaf Muslim community. He said: "We're making history today, starting with a seed and watching it grow. I hope you know what this means to us; it means no more isolation, frustration or separation. The Muslim community and deaf community can be united." Organisers of the landmark event, believed to be the first of its kind in the country, were praised by council representatives for raising the profile of this important issue. Lead Member for Preventing Violent Extremism, Councillor Abdal Ullah emphasised the council's long standing commitment to tackling inequalities, saying: "This is a really proud day and I'm delighted to see the launch of a service which will make such a difference. To hear the testimonies of service users, one of whom said "after 28 years I feel included in the Mosque," is incredibly rewarding. "I'm proud that Al-Isharah is based in Tower Hamlets, where we have a flourishing third sector. Al-Isharah is the jewel in the crown!" Assistant Executive Director at the East London Mosque and London Muslim Centre Shaynul Khan, said: "We believe this project is the first of its kind and we're working in partnership to make prayer accessible to deaf and hard of hearing Muslims. We have 22,000 people visiting us every week from all backgrounds and hope that this is a starting point to bring different communities together and will be considered by other mosques across the UK." The launch event included readings, poems and demonstrations from Al-Isaharah members. Imam Abdul Qayum, who delivered the Khutbah in Arabic, Bengali and English, also endorsed the new service. Speaking at the launch event afterwards, he said: "I'm extraordinarily delighted today - this is one of the most important events in my life." Al-Isharah aims to teach Islamic education to deaf Muslims, raising deaf awareness, working with parents and families through online forums, classes and discussion groups. For more information about their work, contact Dr Saduf Naqvi, Co-Director of Al-Isharah on [email protected] or email: [email protected]. ENDS Notes to editors For media enquiries contact Mohammad Shakir, Media and Communications on 020 7650 3006 or email [email protected] Supported by the London Muslim Centre, Al-Isharah has already been running Islamic sessions for deaf children in the borough for the last 18 months. Previously, Islamic classes were not easily accessible for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. It was the first time the Khutbah has been translated into sign language for the deaf and hard of hearing at the East London Mosque and is a significant event for London's deaf Muslim community.