Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – A Malaysian disability NGO has responded to a viral video posted by a wheelchaired man who was prohibited from entering a mosque in Padang, West Sumatra, because the mosque's caretaker was concerned about the dirt on the wheels.
The Pertubuhan Prihatin Orang Kurang Upaya 1Malaysia (Prihatin) organization had just the solution: a portable cloth cover for wheelchair wheels called "kasoot wheelchair".
The product was invented by Prihatin president Noorulhuda Mohamed Asli so that Muslims in wheelchairs would not need to worry about bringing dirt from the streets into the sacred area of a mosque or having to clean the wheels before praying.
Abraham Ismed, who was told to pray outside the West Sumatra Grand Mosque because of his "unclean" wheelchair, made headlines in Indonesia and apparently in neighboring Malaysia after he posted his experience on his Instagram account (@boy1492).
Many condemned the "expulsion", but the mosque management argued that the measure was intended to maintain the purity of the holy place of worship.
Noorulhuda, who visited Padang last Friday, said that providing a solution so people with disabilities could pray at mosques was very important, adding that it was a global issue that "no one seems to care about".
Prihatin thus took the initiative in 2015 to create and start distributing the kasoot to people in wheelchairs in Malaysia. The Malaysian government, particularly the Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development, is said to endorse the product.
"After reading The Jakarta Post's report about the 'expulsion' incident, we decided to visit the Grand Mosque to offer a solution, [...] the kasoot wheelchair," Noorulhuda said in a recent phone interview, and that she and several Prihatin members had visited Abraham to hand him the wheel covers in person.
Abraham uploaded a picture of the NGO's gift on his Instagram account. He said the wheel covers were extremely helpful when he wanted to pray at a mosque. "It allows me to enter a mosque without having to worry about the dirt," he posted.
The West Sumatra Grand Mosque, which was established in 2014, has been dubbed the most beautiful mosque in the province for its unique architecture. Its most distinctive feature is the roof, which is a contemporary interpretation of the roof of the traditional Minangkabau house called gonjong.
The 3-story structure can accommodate roughly 20,000 people, making it the biggest mosque in West Sumatra and a popular tourist destination.
"The central mosque will be equipped with disabled-friendly facilities," said Noorulhuda. "What if disabled Muslims from abroad want to pray at the mosque? How will they address the issue?" She also expressed hope that the grand mosque and other mosques in Indonesia that were tourist attractions could be a good example for other countries.
West Sumatra Grand Mosque chairman Yulius admitted that the mosque did not have proper facilities to accommodate disabled visitors.
"We have yet to install disabled access facilities at the mosque. If there is anything we can do to address the problem, we will do so [as soon as possible]," Yulius said late last month after a meeting with the Indonesian Disabled Persons Association (PPDI), reported Antara.