There is a dream-like quality to life in Doha. A retro charm far removed from the creative media branding of Qatar’s blend of tradition and high-tech as ‘Club Med for Terrorists’.
However, my mum remains certain the Daily Telegraph has it right.
I rang, inviting her to pay us a visit.
‘Mum why don’t you come to Doha and stay with us, its nice.’ I said.
‘What do I want to visit ISIS for?’ Her opener.
‘They aren’t here yet so it’s rather lovely and quiet in fact’ my attempt at being jolly about potential doom.
Mum then demolished me – as she often does- by making a comment so acidic you have to laugh and then she wins the debate/argument by default.
“IS will be in north London soon enough, I don’t need to ship myself over to them!”
I sought a description that would be both true and appealing to my mum’s understanding of what, in her awful version of the world, is still ‘worth a look.’
I removed the exasperation from my voice, reminding myself of the love and respect Islam expects children to have for their parents, at any stage of life.
“It’s not terror central, it’s more like Cannes back in the 1950’s with lots of glossy sheikhs wafting around and beautiful women, dressed modestly and behaving with casual decorum”
There was a slight pause. A heartbeat in length, enough time for me to know she was remembering, that black and white bygone age, when glamour was flashy rather than merely fleshy.
Then it came to me. The number one reason she should be here is not for the glamorous sights, the flashy restaurants, the suave promenades. It’s because for the first time in her latter years (she is a regal 78) she could be around a wider society which does not view her as a burden.
Growing old in Britain without a private, full-to-the-brim, carved-in-stone, pension scheme, isn’t for wimps. My mum is incredibly grateful for her rent which is (for now) paid by the government. By not eating too much and wearing extra socks in winter to save on fuel costs, she can survive. She is, genuinely, thankful. What those with aged parents fear is the undeniable fact that neither mercy nor compassion are allowed to impose their ethical presence upon the web of corporations which societies most vulnerable rely upon for essential services.
In the 1980’s when Prime Minister John Major talked about hospital patients being ‘customers.’ The word flashed images of first class treatment and private rooms into the heads of our increasingly alcohol riddled, savings scammed, food-bank, reliant nation. Imagine! Instead of greying, overfilled wards, there would be hotel-style ‘service’ after your colectomy. Plus (imagine!) a TV at every bedside.
That has actually happened. Curtesy of the previous New Labour government you now have a TV set at the end of bed in most NHS hospital wards and rooms.
For the bargain price of £42 a week, you can watch it as well.
In Qatar, the Islamic ethos of caring for the elderly, exists as it always has done. Here, you feel what it would be like to live in a society which doesn’t merely ‘tolerate’ the elderly and their continued existence, but admires their contribution, treating them with respect.
And above all love.
Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one of them or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, “My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.” (Quran, 17:23-24)