Kadeem is fifty years old. He came to the UK in 2010 with his wife, Nadiya, and his three children, Omar, Karim and Ayesha.
Since 2010 Kadeem has tried to make Britain his and his family’s home country. Although he does not feel fully British, he makes an effort to talk to his neighbours (even the odd ones) and he watches the BBC News at ten o’clock every day. He has even tried supporting the English cricket team (without too much success). On most Fridays, Kadeem goes to the mosque. This has been something familiar among everything that has changed in his new life and surroundings.
Nadiya is very happy in Britain. She loves her husband and her three children and she loves the wider community. Omar, seventeen, is a good boy. He works hard at school, he has done well in his exams and he wants to go to university. As the oldest child, he has the best memory and connection with their life and culture before they moved to Britain. He remembers the foods and sports, as well as their old mosque community and friends.
Kadeem is more worried about his second son, Karim, or ‘Karm’, as his friends call him. He is fifteen, the coolest guy in his class and the joker amongst all his mates. Kadeem and Nadiya think he spends too much time on computer games. His teachers write ‘Could do better’ on all his reports. They try to give him a degree of freedom, but worry about the typical temptations of teenagers with alcohol, late nights and unhelpful friendships. Karm seems to have embraced his British life in full and does not connect with his home culture as much as his parents would hope.
Ayesha is twelve. She is, of course, faultless in her father’s eyes and she knows it. Karim regularly complains that she always gets what she wants. She probably does with Kadeem, but Nadiya is more even-handed. Her British friends are into social media and fashion, social media and boys, social media and social media. To keep her away from obsessing about it all, Nadiya has encouraged her into sport. Ayesha is good at most sports and it distracts her from some of the things her peers spend too much time doing, but doesn’t really help her get focussed on school work or religious duties.
Kadeem & Nadiya (not their real names) are real people with real concerns and a real faith. You may recognise some of these challenges they face, especially if you have children or you have moved to a new country before. Despite our different cultural and religious perspectives, families of all backgrounds share similar life challenges.
Despite our different cultural and religious perspectives, families of all backgrounds share similar life challenges.
This observation is not new. Various politicians and people in the media point out that our neighbours moving in from different countries are ‘people just like us,’ that the West is a multi-cultural society and that all cultures (and religions) deserve to be recognised and respected. The only problem with their advice is that many of these politicians and media-people are shouting their coaching tips from the stands, not from the pitch. Since they have not themselves played the game, their truth is a thin truth. Their advice is the advice of an outsider, not the wisdom of an insider.
People like Kadeem, Nadiya, Omar, Karim and Ayesha are my Muslim neighbours. Our Lord Jesus commands us to love our neighbours. We can spend time relating to them, getting to know them and helping each other in our struggles. Though sometimes painful, these common struggles in the 21st century culture allow us to hear their concerns. As we are open about the normal challenges in our own lives we can talk about how we find strength in Jesus.