This article resonated with me right away. Two weeks ago a friend of a friend who lives in Dubai struggled to explain to me why she treats her domestic servants the way that she does. She ended up chalking it to, "you're American, you cannot understand these things." But I had to ask, shouldn't you behave in a moral way regardless of where you are and regardless of the nationality of the person? Is that not the normal way? I would like to believe it is, but the more I hear how servants are treated in Arabic countries, the more I cringe inside. I am sure there are exceptions to every rule, but how did we go from Islam stripping us of our color and race in front of God to considering ourselves in some way racially superior. It absolutely boggles my mind.
This woman, educated and upper middle class, had no notion that what she was doing was morally wrong. She actually said, "She gives me what I want and I give her what she needs-money. I don't owe her anything more than that." But is not a question of owing, it is a question of how you treat someone. I have seen my mother-in-law folding clothes and having tea with her servants. She would never in a million years think to treat someone that way. I do not know of many Libyan families who have servants so I am not sure what standard treatment is, but I pray and hope that we set an example of how it should be.
Looking at Expatriate Women With Suspicion Is Not Doing Us Any Good
Program and evaluation analyst at Aramco.
My phone rang late at night; it was a police officer calling from the local police station. I was startled and imagined that disaster was upon us, considering the dark times we are passing through. Before my imagination could take me too far, the policeman informed me sharply that my maid had been arrested while out walking with a male companion. Without elaborating, he requested that I inform her sponsor to come immediately for questioning and to sign a pledge.
Contrary to what the authorities believed, my maid had not run away for a tryst with her lover but was, as is her right, enjoying her weekend off with her husband, who works in a private company. I have often been met with a look of surprise mixed with distaste by those who have learned that my maid has all the freedom enjoyed by the rest of my family. She has a house key to leave when she has to; she has a right to voice her opinion in matters that concern her, and in addition she receives her religious and weekend holidays to spend with whomever she pleases.
I will never forget the look on an acquaintance’s face when she learned of all that I let this person do — a person moreover whom I consider a friend who helps me bear the burden of household chores and bringing up my children.
My companion was exasperated: “Are you not worried that this woman will do something wrong when you allow her to go out?”
I answered: “She is a grown woman of sound mind like you and me. I do not worry about such things because they are her personal business.”
Is it written in the contract that the employer is responsible for each step an employee takes? I am employed by a private company and spend more than half the day at work. Does that give my boss the right to interfere in my private life or to imprison me if I don’t do as he wishes? For five years I have given this woman the keys to my house and she has never let me down because she feels a part of this house and those who live in it.
Why do we only consider “zina” (adultery) unlawful? Why do we forget that what we subject our fellow human beings to — the subjugation and oppression — is also unlawful? We imagine that we are the cream of the crop and that only we know right from wrong. We believe that women from other parts of the world are ill-mannered and lost and don’t know right from wrong. It is from that standpoint that we give ourselves the right to rob them of their existence and take away their basic rights by force when they work for us, whether in the private or public sectors.
There are presently nearly seven million expatriates in the Kingdom and a third of them are women — imprisoned in houses and women’s workshops. Many are abused, verbally or physically, and some are also sexually molested. They are not allowed to plead their cases, and some never leave the house where they work for two whole years or more, depending on the contract. They are not allowed to speak their own language or to talk on the telephone. They work night and day in the house without weekend breaks, annual or sick leave. When they set off on their journey home, many are not paid their wages in full.
Our religion is one of tolerance, but as a nation we are intolerant of each other and of other people. We have built our relationships with others on wariness and suspicion. We have turned our homes and workplaces, our roads and malls, into danger zones.
Every country must have the respect and appreciation of other countries so that its voice may be heard. We are in dire need of gaining that respect and good reputation, both internally and externally. Therefore, we must deal with a distasteful phenomenon and not turn a blind eye to it, as the authorities are wont to do.
Tyranny and oppression must be rejected by every individual within our society so that we can build bridges between ourselves and those resident in our country.