Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs graces IDGAC 2023 closing

By Nurasyikin Bakhtiar Kamal

GOMBAK, 6 January 2024: In a heartfelt and inspiring closing speech at the IIUM Disability Grand Awareness Campaign 2023 (IDGAC 2023), the Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, YB Senator Dr. Zulkifli Hasan marked a significant milestone. Not only was it a spectacular way to wrap the campaign, but it was also the first program that Dr. Zulkifli officially closed in his new capacity as Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs.

Dr. Zulkifli recognised the unique bond he shares with the IIUM, a sentiment deepened by his previous position as the IIUM Deputy Rector of Student Development and Community Engagement. He conveyed his appreciation for the university’s commitment to inclusion, which was demonstrated during this campaign.

The Deputy Minister applauded the organisers for their efforts in promoting awareness and encouraging inclusion for persons with disabilities (PwDs). He reflected on the transformative power of understanding, embracing, and supporting those who navigated the world differently that might change lives for the better.

He emphasized the need to ensure that every voice is heard and every skill is recognized in order to unlock society’s ultimate potential. “One’s disability is not a limitation, but an ability,” he declared.

In sharing his own experience working with PwDs, Dr. Zulkifli mentioned the priceless lessons he had learnt from both staff and students by highlighting the OKU Kinabalu challenge. It was a program that was initiated last year which brought PwDs —including the visually impaired—to the summit of Mount Kinabalu. His emphasis was on the idea, “if you can conquer Mount Kinabalu, you can conquer the world.”

Discussing government initiatives, the Deputy Minister addressed the ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the passing of the Person with Disabilities Act. He also outlined several initiatives, such as the Pelan Tindakan Orang Kurang Upaya (OKU) Muslim which aimed to support the Pelan Tindakan OKU Kebangsaan and Dasar OKU Negara.

Dr. Zulkifli spoke about specific agencies implementing Pelan Tindakan OKU for Muslims and the efforts made to provide access to the Syariah justice system and mentioned of programs, training, and publications, including Braille versions of important religious texts, as steps toward inclusion and access to information.

Dr. Zulkifli during the closing ceremony.

In furtherance of this, the Deputy Minister celebrated the achievements of IIUM PhD student, Br. Nur Arif Jasmin, by recognizing his creativity, courage, and uniqueness in producing his own book despite being a young person with autism. He also acknowledged the committed contribution of IDGAC 2023 committees, collaborators, and Head of the Disability Services Unit (DSU), Prof. Dr. Ruzita Bt Mohd Amin in making the campaign a success.

Finally, Dr. Zulkifli Hasan expressed his hope that this occasion will herald a new beginning rather than an end for the advancement of disability awareness and inclusivity. He applauded the staff and students at the IIUM for their active engagement and urged group efforts to create a more compassionate and inclusive world.

As the curtains fell on IDGAC 2023, Deputy Minister Dr. Zulkifli extended his sincere gratitude and best wishes, hoping that the initiatives sparked during this campaign would pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society. He conveyed his special fondness for the campaign organized by the IIUM, and vowed to return in future.

The closing ceremony was also graced by:

  • Prof. Dr. Akmal Khuzairi Bin Abd Rahman (Deputy Rector of Student Development and Community Engagement);
  • Mejar General (R) Dato’ Yusri Anwar; 
  • Datuk Dr. Ras Adiba Radzi (Former Senator);
  • Puan Anita Abu Bakar (President of Mental Illness and Support Association (MIASA)).***