Does the religion of your neighbor matter to you?

Eve Dugdale

Published: Updated:

There are plenty of things that can annoy us about our neighbors.

From the ones who steal our parking spaces to those who hold parties until the early hours, I was certain most of us would share the same view on what makes a good neighbor.

That’s why the results of a recent German survey about neighbors baffled me so much.

The research, by Bertelsmann Stiftung –an independent foundation under private law - as part of the Religious Monitor 2017 project, revealed that around a fifth of European citizens do not want to live next door to followers of the Islamic faith.

The survey saw 10,000 people interviewed in Austria, France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK which between them are home to millions of Muslim people.

When the study’s organizers asked people if they would want to have Muslims as neighbors, an average of just under 20 per cent gave a negative response.

According to the survey, the highest level of concern over Islam is in Austria with 28 per cent and lowest in France with 14 per cent.

The results really shocked me. And what upset me most was that around 94 per cent of Muslims, interviewed by the foundation, said they felt connected with the European country they live in – clearly not having a problem with their neighbors.

It really got me and my friends fired up and it seems we all had a bad neighbor story to tell. In fact the consensus was that a person’s faith is often the last thing you need to be concerned about.

Indeed, it’s their love for loud music or big dogs that you should be more worried about.

Yvonne Zaman, who was married to a Muslim man says: “These findings are ridiculous. What people need to be more worried about than anything else is a scorned woman. I believe that’s the worst neighbor anybody could have.

“My family and I used to live next to a woman whose husband left her. She was in a big house on her own and any noise we made she would complain about. If my son’s football happened to go in her garden she would keep it and she even took us to court and argued that we needed to move all our televisions to the other side of the house so they wouldn’t disturb her.”

Fellow Brit Clair Ryecroft believes that the people who say they wouldn’t want to live next to a Muslim person have probably never lived next to one before and are just plain ignorant.

She says: “My parents live next to a really rude couple who I assume are Christian. They are always complaining for no reason and their son parks in their parking space. However, the neighbors on the opposite side are a Muslim couple who are just brilliant. My parents get along really well with them and my daughter plays in their house. When it’s Eid they have a barbecue and invite my parents and they always bring them food. I couldn’t wish for better neighbors for my parents.”

For Susan Parker it was what happened once her neighbor went to bed that drove her mad. She says: “I used to hear my neighbor snoring. He came up to complain to me about slamming a window so I told him I could hear him snoring through my ceiling and he starting shouting at me calling me a liar. Every time his snoring woke me at night after that I used to stamp really loudly on the floor to wake him up!”

And when it comes to the worst neighbours, nothing really beats Jenny Kirkham’s. This British girl lived two doors down from one of the most prolific serial killers in recorded history.

She says: “I lived two doors down from Doctor Harold Shipman from age one until 16. We knew him as Fred and it was incredibly surreal to find that the sweet little man who you grew up knowing was one of the world's most prolific mass murderers. If anyone had an illness or injury on the street, Fred came round and treated them without question. My dad thought he was having a stroke in the middle of the night once and Fred came round and helped him.”