The Faculty of Business and Management (FBM), Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), Malaysia last year organised a program called Autism Friendly Mosque which was initiated by the Research Initiative Group (RIG) Sustaining Quality of Life (SQL). This program was introduced to avoid negative perceptions from the public since most Muslim parents do not bring their autistic children to the mosque.
This program, a collaboration between Government agencies such as the Department of Federal Territory Islamic Affairs (JAWI) and several NGO’s including The National Autism Society of Malaysia (NASOM) and mosques throughout Malaysia was part of the community engagement for the research.
As part of this initiative, more than 45 children with autism and their parents were invited to join this program as far back as April 2018 together with more than 50 volunteers. Several programs have been carried out since then, such as lessons on performing prayers and reading IQRA and Ablution. Unfortunately, in the current pandemic situation, this program was done virtually.
“Walking in the shoes of a child with an autism spectrum disorder: making visiting the religious centre (mosque) easier” was a program organised on 11 April 2020 using Social Media platform and Facebook Live. The program received an overwhelming response from participants throughout Malaysia.
These programs were aimed to open societies’ mind-set and accept those in the spectrums and to put more attention to figure out ways to communicate with them. With the belief that all people are born different but equal and valuable, the RIG from FBM UiTM, NGOs and JAWI hoped that the program achieved its objectives especially to encourage Muslim parents to bring their children with autism to the mosque so that they can enjoy equal and harmonious lives.
Dr Naffisah Mohd Hassan, the team leader of the program highlighted that “these community service responsibility projects also served as a platform for the university staff and students to engage with the needs, to care for those in need exclusively the minority community such as children with special needs and other minority groups in the community, how to reach to them and eventually help them or support them to improve their quality of life”.