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Can I stay with you? I won't be any trouble

Reader comment on item: [The American Muslim Council:] 'Mainstream' Muslims?

Submitted by MANDY (Spain), Oct 15, 2006 at 19:29

A very simplistic analogy written to convey a specific problem facing Britain and other European countries today.Half way down Middle Road lived five British people who had lived together amicably despite being different in some ways. One was Jewish, one was Catholic, one was a Sikh, one was Protestant, and the other was an atheist. Disputes arose but were settled upon discussions. One day, there was a knock at the door.

‘Who's there?'

‘Hello, my name is Saleem and I in danger…please me live with you?'

Of course, being British, the five friends instantly opened the door and gave Saleem the shelter she needed. All went smoothly as Saleem improved her English and made every attempt to fit in to the way the house was run. She wanted to be accepted and to be treated as an equal. Being British, the friends did accept her after they got used to her. Eventually they celebrated her differences and discovered all about them. They enjoyed the element of variety Saleem gave to the house. In fact, at times they were fascinated. Saleem also enjoyed the elements of British culture she had never experienced before.

Months passed and there was another knock at the door. ‘Hello, I am Kalim and bad things for me'

The door was opened again and the welcoming arms of the five friends embraced their new arrival. Kalim didn't speak any English other than what he said at the door and therefore found comfort in the realms of Saleem's bedroom. He didn't leave her room very often as he felt he couldn't understand the others and felt they were too different to communicate with. Every effort was made by the five friends to make Kalim feel at home. All instructions for operating the domestic appliances were translated and printed into Kalim's language, at huge cost to the house. The house believed it would help Kalim to fit in due to feeling comfortable.

Saleem and Kalim became close friends and talked a lot in Saleem's bedroom. They decided that they didn't want to learn English anymore, nor change their lifelong beliefs or ways of thinking, living and dressing. Little things around the house annoyed them and so they announced that every week they wanted to have a house meeting to discuss them.

Although the five friends didn't want to change, they also didn't want to offend their new guests. Bit by bit, they removed articles from the house which Kalim and Saleem had pointed out caused offence. On Christmas Day there was no Christmas tree in the living room, despite it being a much loved feature of the friends' year. One of the friends had to remove her crucifix which had been above her bed for ten years. She was upset but thought it best to create harmony in the house. The dog had to go into a shelter and alcohol was banned from the house.

One day a gay man, a friend of the five friends, came to visit but Kalim and Saleem didn't want him to be associated with the house they now called home so the gay man had to leave.

In the privacy of their bedrooms, the five friends silently reflected on their lives with their new guests. They were saddened at the loss of the things which were important to them. They felt their unique identities had been eroded. Discussing the issue of how they had had to accommodate the various dislikes of their new guests was difficult as each believed the others would retaliate. Little did they know that four out of the five friends felt the same.

Rather than raise the issue and establish some sensibility, and maybe encourage the new guests to adapt their limits of tolerance in order to fit into their new home without taking away its traditional specialities, they buried their heads in the sand and hoped the problem would go away.

The problem never went away but four out of the five friends did and were replaced by friends of Kalim and Saleem.

One day much later, there was another knock at the door.

‘Hello. My name is Geoffrey Thistlewait and I am in terrible danger old chaps. Do you mind awfully if I could kip here the night? I won't get in your way'

The door was not opened that time.

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