Wednesday, August 20, 2008

We're All The Same.

On Sunday night my next door neighbour had a massive heart attack and died immediately. He was alone in his living room and never had time to shout out for help.

It really shook me up. I've had 2 heart attacks myself and so having someone I know die from one made me think.

It reminded me that I've twice been given a chance to do some things differently. I'd been fixing my supper when the ambulance pulled up and when I found out what had happened, I cut my supper portion in half ! I know it was a knee jerk reaction but once again, I'm determined to eat more healthily and exercise more too.

As if having had my own heart attacks wasn't enough of an incentive !!

Ikram, my neighbour, was a lovely man. A family man with 3 kids who are a credit to him. The oldest is 22 and just finished at University. He'll now be the man of the house.

The boys are quiet, polite and the family have been wonderful neighbours. They cut my lawn and look after my mail when I go to America for 6 months every year. We've never been "pop in for a coffee type" neighbours but we've known each other for about 15 years so I've seen the boys grow up and they've never caused me any concern. Far from it.

This afternoon I went to see Ikram for the last time. He was a Muslim and so to see him and say goodbye, I went to his mosque. This was a first for me and originally I hadn't planned on going in - just being outside to pay my respects.

But when the family were told I was there, I was asked in. There was a long line of people slowly passing the open coffin with the family members standing at it's head. I made my way to join the line but my name was called out and I was asked to stand with the family. People spread out to let me get to the coffin and I was able to say my goodbyes to Ikram.

I was just a neighbour. I was a Christian. But I was treated as someone special at a time when I could easily have been overlooked and left as an outsider in this Muslim world. Everyone who spoke to me was kind, polite and hospitable. It was an occasion I will never forget.

With the funeral over, there now begins a period of mourning. Gradually the friends and extended family members will leave. On Monday morning, when the body was taken to the hospital for a post mortem, the boys and their mother left to stay a few streets away with Ikram's brother and they've not all been back to the house since then. When they do and are once again surrounded by tangable and atmospheric memories, I think it will finally hit them that a husband and father has gone forever.

We all have our own attitudes about other nationalities, cultures and religions and these can be influenced by what we read in newspapers or see on tv and the headlines are always made by extremists.

Extremists are just that, extreme. Even though, by their dramatic actions, they can lead us to think they represent much more than they really do, we should always remember that the vast majority of people everywhere are not like that.

Ikram raised his family to be decent, honest and hard working. And Muslim. I admit I'd been swayed by the media and numerous news reports into having a negative attitude towards Muslims and it has taken his passing to redress that attitude.

I feel that's a legacy worthy of the man himself.


Daphne said...

Great post: so clear and so full of insight and good sense. Thank you for writing it.

Debby said...

I am at a loss for words. I felt I needed you to know that.

Katherine said...

Yes, thanks for writing so ... honestly. Your reaction has touched me. We ARE all the same inside.

Just don't starve your outside self TOO much!

gemmak said...

What a sad thing to happen...but what a lovely and positive outcome in some respects. A very touching post.

Jennyta said...

You are so right, Ian. In spite of ourselves, we often find ourselves sucked in to the generalisations about different sectors of society. They sound a lovely family going through a very sad time.

Jay said...

How very sad, and what a shock for everyone, too. :(

But how nice to hear something positive about a group of people who are now feared and vilified by many. Yes, we are all the same, we are all people, underneath. And there's good and bad in any group of people. As you say, extremists are just that - extremists. They must cause a lot of heartache for ordinary decent Muslims.

Silverback said...

Thank you all for these comments.

Ikram has continued to 'speak' to me as tonight I went on the treadmill for 30 mins when I really didn't want to.

It may not last but for now, I'm going with it.

Rosanna said...

It's sad that it takes something so profound to one show us what's so important in life, and also to open our eyes to what really happens in other cultures instead of what we "think" happens.

Thank you for posting your honest true thoughts.

Bun said...

A profound story with a message for people everywhere about not judging minority groups based on stereotyped images and what one reads in the paper.

Keep up the treadmill and the healthy eating!

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