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The whole fuss follows the decision by the Indonesian government to make it even harder for Saudi Arabia agencies to recruit Indonesian maids after the reports of maids abused by their employers. The move followed the murder of an Indonesian maid by her male employer and the torture of another one by her female employer.
One of the most publicized stories is that of the murder last year of a servant by Prince Saud Abdelaziz bin Nasser al Saud, grandson of the current King of KSA. There have also been reports of abuse of many other maids from Indonesia and other Asian nations, as well as suicide attempts.
Facing a threatening shortage of maids in this wealthy country, KSA work agencies consider now recruiting women from countries that impose less restrictive conditions, among them Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Morocco.
Why then do those Saudi women oppose only maids coming from Morocco? I need to put things into their context. Over a million Asian maids work in KSA. The non-Arab manpower has gained success in GCC countries as a UN report mentions:
First of all, Asians were less expensive to employ, easier to lay-off, and believed to be more efficient, obedient, and manageable.
Secondly, they were used to leaving their families at home, whereas Arab immigrants usually brought their families to the Gulf with the hope of settling there permanently. This possibility was not acceptable to the GCC authorities.
Thirdly, in the post-1973 oil-boom, the demand for foreign workers in the GCC states outstripped the Arab countries’ ability to supply them. In contrast, Asian governments became often involved in the recruitment and placement of their workers, facilitating their smooth flow to the Gulf. Efficient recruitment agencies in Asia were able to provide a constant supply of manpower, fully satisfying the needs of the Gulf employers. [...]
Finally, many Asians were Muslims too, so the religiously-sensitive Gulf Arabs felt more comfortable having such people around.
All this among other reasons participated in turning Asian manpower to a cheap source of workers reserved to hard and thankless jobs. Hence, those workers get a lower social status than the local population and are literally seen as inferior. How can you then be surprised to hear such news of mistreating, abuse and torture? How do you want a Filipino maid to represent a threat when it’s not even question to consider her as a potential wife?
Now put a Moroccan – a fellow Arab – in the place. Of course it changes everything; there is no dominant/dominated balance of power anymore. And this is in my opinion the reason why the Moroccan maid – and more widely, the Arab maid – is unwanted in Saudi houses.
On Ahl El Sharaf
A couple of weeks ago, I had a little argument with a Syrian friend of mine over a video of Kawthar Al Bashrawi who was quite strongly bashing male colleagues from the Gulf for being that disdainful towards North African people. She was telling them that they should learn dignity and virtue from Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian women.
Basically, that friend of mine was saying that in terms of “sharaf” (virtue), the Moroccans had no lesson to give to anyone, especially not to the “Khalijiyat” (Gulf women) who, as everybody knows, are the example of virtue across the Muslim world. Oh yeah, no alcohol in KSA, no bikinis, no boyfriend/girlfriend, no night clubs nor bars, no prostitution, no homosexuality. And the arguments to continue flooding: you in Morocco have easy access to alcohol, to night clubs, prostitution is something common and sometimes even encouraged (Duh?!), etc.
So the fact that Allah’s house – El Kaaba El Shareefa – is in Mecca makes all the Saudis “Ahl El Sharaf”? I don’t even need to comment on this point, I think you can easily understand how stupid it sounds. As if virtue spread throughout the Kingdom and stopped at the borders.
I inquired about alcohol in the Arab world because I found it quite gross that you could find it ONLY in Morocco. So I asked a bunch of friends, and guess what? Apart from a couple of states like Al Sharjah, KSA and Kuwait (however you have night clubs and bars serving alcohol in this last country) that explicitly forbid alcohol, ALL the other countries provide free access to alcohol, whether in night clubs, restaurants, liquor stores, or cabarets; Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Palestine, Dubai and Qatar.
When your economy relies mostly on tourism – as in Morocco-, you can’t be surprised to find alcohol among other detestable things. Does that mean all Moroccans are drunkards? Just as in any Muslim society, drinking alcohol is considered as blameworthy by most of Moroccans. On the same logic, does the fact that prostitution exists in Morocco prevents it from existing in other countries? Does that mean all Moroccan women are whores? In Arab News’ article, a Saudi woman opposing the recruitment of Moroccan maids states:
Moroccan women are known for being pliant and willing to adjust to varying situations, and this posed a threat to a working wife who is not at home most of the day.
So basically, that means that Moroccan women are whores? Usually, such statement goes along with the “sorcery” argument, but I will discuss that later in this post. There is a fact that those Saudi women should be aware of; more and more Saudi men marry Syrian, Egyptian and Moroccan women because they are not satisfied “at home”. Why not see this as a – hypocritical, I admit – way of showing an insane society their unhappiness? Why blame on the maid the fact that you don’t know how to satisfy your husband? Why blame on the maid the fact that your husband is not faithful?
Maybe I should also remind those who claim to be “Ahl El Sharaf” that they are the first investors and consumers of sex tourism along with Westerners, whether in Morocco or in other countries where poverty drives people to enslave themselves for basic needs? Maybe I should remind “Ahl El Sharaf” that the Gulf countries have the highest rates of homosexuality in the Arab world? Maybe I should remind “Ahl El Sharaf” that they have installed in Casablanca night clubs “For Khaleejis Only” such as the Black House, where fellow citizens can come and have fun with Moroccan women when in town? Maybe I should remind that before being chased by the civil war, “Ahl El Sharaf” were doing in Lebanon what they now do in Morocco? Maybe I should also remind “Ahl El Sharaf” all the times Moroccan women have been promised a job as hairdresser, maid, receptionist, to finally end up deprived from their passports and thrown in some Gulf whorehouse, along with Iraqi women who have become cheap meat since the war, Egyptian, Lebanese women and others of “less virtuous” nationalities? How virtuous is it to throw the stone on people whose misery you take advantage of?
Usually, those who have such stereotypes in mind don’t know that Morocco has a very rich history and a priceless Islamic heritage. Spend some time there, and forget the night clubs that you seem to see everywhere in Morocco. You will not find an empty mosque, all imams competing in “tajweed” (Quran recitation), and hijab is part of the Moroccan landscape. But that would break all the stereotypes, wouldn’t it?
As I mentioned above, the other big joke of this story is the fact that Moroccan women are supposedly masters in black magic. Yeah, truth is we pass from mother to daughter the art of casting spells with camel urine and couscous grains while swaying our perfect bodies in a Satanic choreography.
Wow, I can do that?!
Seriously, I don’t like discussing this subject because it’s prone to a lot of fantasy and imagination, fed by more or less questionable tales and legends. Superstitions are common in the Arab countries, not only in Morocco, and they are usually remains of cultures anterior to Islam. You can’t help it, it’s part of your cultural heritage. And don’t be blind; the Quran and Sunnah mention black magic, but at no moment it was said “Blame the Moroccans for it!”; it exists in your country too.
Now let’s have a closer look at this statement from Arab News’ article on the use of black magic by Moroccan women in Saudi homes:
“It is a ridiculous fear that is without base,” said marriage counselor and psychoanalyst Hany Al-Ghamdi, pointing out that if a man has no respect for his family, nothing will stop him from having an affair and that any concerns about nationality are invalid. It is a misconception, Al-Ghamdi points out, to stereotype in this way based on nationality.
“If there is to be a reasonable analysis, we should ask why Moroccan women know how to attract and keep their men,” said Al-Ghamdi, suggesting that Saudi women who feel threatened should take a closer look at themselves.
“There is no black magic in a relationship between a man and woman. But there is the magic of love, caring and tolerance,” said Al-Ghamdi, adding that some women do not know how to understand their men and show tolerance toward them.
Tolerance, according to Al-Ghamdi, means being able to overcome problems and disputes and show love and femininity. [...]
Teaching love, Al-Ghamdi believes, is one way to reduce Saudi women’s fear of being threatened by other women.
“Aisha, the wife of Prophet (peace be upon him), was the first to open a ‘school for women.’ She was teaching women about even the most intimate details of their lives with their husbands. We need more of this teaching, instead of the rigid curriculum we are teaching girls in schools,” said Al-Ghamdi, stressing that even Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said “there is no alternative for love but to marry.”
Do I need to say more on this? If it takes to send Moroccan maids to make the Saudi women who are insecure feel in competition for a betterment of their society, their marriages, their lives, then let it be.
I am a woman just like any other woman. I am not excessively beautiful, I don’t send magic sparks when I blink, men don’t follow me in the street with their mouths open. I probably just take charge of my femininity and know how to give in order to take.