Deaf Muslims Find Religious Class in Toronto

At Masjid Toronto, a mosque in Toronto’s downtown core, 20-or-so students attend the city’s only Islamic class for deaf Muslims. “Deaf Muslims don’t have many opportunities to meet others from that community, so the chance to have those social connections is very fulfilling,” said Amina Daimee, among the first Muslim ASL/English interpreters who graduated from the George Brown College program this year.

The teacher, Sheikh Abdool Hamid, keeps his lessons strictly in English so that Daimee can use American Sign Language to communicate. But in a class as diverse as this, even English has its limitations. Many began speaking Pakistani Sign Language, Arabic Sign Language and Turkish Sign Language long before they knew ASL existed — and are only now learning the nuances of the second language. Moreover, ASL doesn’t really take diversity into consideration, said Daimee. Words like ‘Mecca’ and ‘Mohammed’ simply don’t exist. So the class has agreed for now to simply spell such words out.