Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Have vs. the Have Nots

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
Wajeha Al-Huwaider
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.


Anonymous said...

I totally agree with you, I am a person who if i had a servant will help and devide chores between the both of us, i can just stand there and watch her clean while i'm sitting doing nothing!!
and i believe that they are humans just like us and that life wasn't fair enough to give them living without doing what they do.

as long as respect and love exsists then we have nothing to fear.

mogeir said...

i loved your blog, very entertaining. I just wanted to say hi and present you with a project I’m working on, that goes by the name: Libyan Mental TV. I would love to get your feedback.

Mejnuna said...

Great blog Garriba. Now, if you would only return my calls....

I'm not crazy, I swear I'm not!!

mani said...

Salam Dima

Yeslam temmek and ur typing fingers.. and the mind that guides them.. rabbe yo7fdok..

Im proud of u


Chatalaine / شاتالاين said...

*clapping my hands*

Good thought provoking blog! Thank you!!!!!

Tasbeeh said...

This is entirely irrelevant but...I saw in one of your posts that your name is Jumana...when i went to Libya, I met this woman, who was the leader of my cousins Libyan girl scout group, and her name was Jumana too. AND she was from Virginia. Are you the same Jumana? If so, then, WOW. What a small world. And do you remember me? My name is Tasbeeh.

Lebeeya said...

Nice post!!

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3abtash said...

salam ..
i have read all ur posts and all i have to say is mashallah 3alayki...
u have some excellent points about everything. i am a bit like u. i was born and raised in canada, yet i love libya to the extremes. in 2005 my father decided to move back to libya and we stayed there for 2 years and then ended up in QATAR. when my family or friends ask me the common question"which is better, libya or canada?" i would say libya in a heartbeat. it would be libya not because of the country as a place but because of all the family we have there.
thank u again for the nice posts..

gz said...

It's nice and all to believe that we should all live in a Utopian society. where everyone is honest and trustworthy etc. But as you know very well it is a highly unlikely situation.

Racism is something that becomes ingrained into society from whatever is the norm. i.e. Generally in Arab countries black people are immigrants from Africa. they migrate for work, they also tend to be poor and unskilled. Which results in Arabs regarding "black people" as lower class. It is an observation which becomes a generality, which then stems to racism.

As opposed to America which has gone through this "phase" a long time ago, and now people of African origin have become equal members of society (in most parts).

Its a simplistic explanation, but it is a simple matter. It is easy to label certain people as racist, which in its self is a predigest term in this matter.

Basically "they don't know any better"