Autistic Acceptance Matters in the Arab States

The world’s black community has been weaponized by the shooting of a black man in Minnesota. I haven’t got much thought to write about this issue but I have conflated the civil rights of black and Asian groups with disability and autism groups. I do acknowledge what happened to George Floyd was a terrible waste of life but what has followed is a protest and civil disorder that shows how divided we are in accepting each other. Not as white and black people, but how all classes and types of citizens are valued in the world.

I saw this story on Facebook recently about an Arabic man who was autistic got shot dead by an Israeli police officer who suspected him of carrying a gun. The man was Iyad Halaq, a 32 year old low functioning autistic man, which makes him the polar opposite of what level of autism I have. Iyad would be frightened and highly reactive to the presence of a police officer or someone that approached him and that would have triggered him to run for cover. An investigation is being carried out by the defence ministry over the killing but for now I would think its worth highlighting how someone like Iyad would be living in a Palestinian community of Arabs in Israel.

According to his parents Iyad would walk everyday to a community centre called Isreal Elwyn Al Quds, which provides services for people with disabilities. I’ve checked their website and their centres serve over 5,200 people across Israel. I reckon they would have probably taught at some point to Iyad what a police officer is and how to respond to their presence. But I would not expect him to respond effectively enough to not make a scene because I would probably do the same. The poor soul has now lost his life and he is laid to rest quickly. But I would not like to see Iyad’s death used as capital for carnage just as George Floyd has achieved in the USA.

I saw a comment from under the link on a group from a woman from a British-Arab family. It goes like this:

“We are a mixed British/Arab family, and unfortunately we see a lot of this in the news that would never be shown here in the west. Children with special needs a quite often locked away, seen as something shameful, my own husband had a cousin that no one in the family even knew about until she died. You hardly ever see children or young adults with obvious special needs out in public. We were with some friends and I could hear a child, I could tell without even turning that he had autism by the noises he was making, I went to greet the mother and the boy and she cried because people always said he was possessed by the devil, she had never even been given a specific diagnosis of his autism or cerebral palsy.
It’s been common over the years in certain places for people to use kids with Down Syndrome or other LD to act as suicide bombers as no one will care what happens to them.
Things are changing, but slowly, a relative in Cairo has set up a Special School there after living in Australia for many years, it if you think we have issues here, you have not seen anything when you go to Africa and the Middle East, it makes me feel sick to my stomach when I even think about it.”

This statement reeks of inflammatory pain and disgust. I have read in the past about attitudes to disablement in BAME communities and Arabic nations where they view them as disgusting and abhorrent abominations. To some of them they are a burden on the family and the state unless they can serve a purpose where their lives are expendable. I went to a school with some Muslim black Bangladeshi people who had very negative and hateful manners towards me for being autistic. They were also spiteful towards their fellow blacks who had disabilities as well. However I don’t have racial prejudices because of this moment in my life. I do get on with black people who have far better manners than these idiots I went to school with. There is goodness in all people that don’t exploit liberties to be hateful to people of a different kind to them.

But what I will say of the Arab nations is that I detest their abuse and rejection of disablement, which includes autistics. I won’t stand in solidarity with an ethnic group that does not support me as an autistic, nor will I do so for their abuse of their ideology to put me second place to them thinking they deserve a right to violate my existence. How do you think they treat people like Iyad in their nations? Like dogs that are not wanted, that’s what.

I don’t have a grudge against Islamic people based on my bad experiences being at school with Bangladeshi Muslims towards me for being autistic. Contrary to the political nature of Islamic nations and governments disablement is actually embraced and respected in Islamic culture. I have read a story by Muslim disability advocate Timea Aya Csányi on how she has worked with mentally disabled people and she finds it a very good exercise in viewing disabled people in a positive light. In her studies she mentions references to acceptance of disabled people and a commitment to duty of care for them in the Quran.

I would like to show Islamic rulers if Allah teaches people to love one another even if they have deformities, defects or psychological illnesses then why haven’t they got good standards of care towards them in their countries. Iran has got such bad standards of care to disabled people they practically leave them to die alone and miserable in institutions. How can they be like that when Islam believes that disability is a natural part of being a human being and that disabled people have ‘strengths and resources for their own empowerment’. That is a very good example of an aspirational and determined person that I award credit to Islam for appreciating the value of autism.

There is a lesson to be learnt from this that the Arabs and Jews of Israel should do well to follow. The killing of Iyad Halaq was a sad loss to the community and I hope that in future there will be less deaths and neglect of disabled people in Arabic nations and Israel as well. Israel’s record of human rights for the disabled is far greater than that of Iran with a lot more hopes and opportunities for autistic people. The IDF has special roles for autistics in their ranks and job opportunities elsewhere. Don’t make a martyr out of someone like Iyad Halaq, use him as an example to better the civil rights of neurodiversity and autism.

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