There are 600,000 Sri Lankans work as maids in Saudi Arabia. Roughly 1 in every 19 Sri Lankan citizens - work abroad. Sri Lankans are also in big number in the UAE and commonly known as mafias in QS world.....most of QS are said to be from Sri Lanka.
Among the total population, 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists, 15% are Hindus and 7.5percent Christians. About 8 percent of Sri Lankans are Muslims, mostly from the Arab-descendant Moor and Malay ethnic communities.
A maid and her faith
By Sameera Aziz
Many non-Muslim housemaids enter Saudi Arabia without revealing their religion and tend to keep it hidden if being from faiths other than Islam. Shanti, a Hindu Sri Lankan housemaid presented herself as a Muslim under the name ‘Fatima Bibi’. Also, she did worse by teaching her faith to the son of her Muslim Saudi sponsor.
“I was shocked when I saw my 6-year-old son Naif imitating the Hindu praying rituals,” said Umm Naif.
Umm Naif explained how a scene depicted a Hindu marriage ceremony at a temple. The groom applied vermilion in the parting of the bride’s hair to which young Naif exclaimed, “this is kumkum which you should put in your hair too, with a red ‘bindi’ over the forehead to indicate you are married.”
“No, we are Muslims and this is not our faith,” Umm Naif responded in shock inquiring how he did have such detailed knowledge about this act.
Hesitant, young Naif eventually informed his mother that the Sri Lankan maid had educated him about this. The maid had been doing so for months and warned him not to tell anyone, he said.
Nearly 600,000 Sri Lankan housemaids are resident the Kingdom. Sri Lankan government estimated that more than a million Sri Lankans - roughly 1 in every 19 citizens - work abroad. Stories of the housemaids’ sufferings are also widespread in the media.
“It is unfair to only think the maids’ sufferings. I agree that maids experience sufferings at the hands of their sponsors but, sometimes deprivation causes them to resort to unacceptable ways. In my case, the housemaid was spoiling my child’s fundamental faith,” said Umm Naif.
“I was paying her more than the signed contract. We never abused her and I always dealt with her politely,” said Umm Naif. However, Fatima denied teaching unIslamic practices to Naif and claimed that the recruitment agent had told her to hide her religion. She said that she later embraced Islam.
Umm Naif explained that she had paid the recruitment agent SR8000 for a Sri Lankan Muslim housemaid. The agent said he could not be certain of the faith of the maid.
Among the total population, 70percent of Sri Lankans are Theravada Buddhists, 15% are Hindus and 7.5percent Christians. About 8percent of Sri Lankans are Muslims, mostly from the Arab-descendant Moor and Malay ethnic communities.
Muhammad Al-Goba, general manager of Al- Goba Recruitment Company, explains that most people demand a Muslim housemaid from Sri Lanka. “We cannot guarantee that a maid is Muslim as we have to believe her personal information according to the passport and documents submitted”.
Al-Goba also added that, many Muslim Sri Lankan housemaids come to the Kingdom for mainly Umrah or Haj and seek to return home afterwards. Therefore, the recruitment agents avoid sending Muslim housemaids.
Many recruitment agents cheat the Saudi sponsors by concealing the housemaid’s real identity and faith. “Sponsor can return the housemaid within three months to the agency and we guarantee replacement during this period. But after three months the Saudi sponsor is responsible to give her the Iqama (legal permit) and ticket to return,” said Al-Goba. Umm Naif was unfortunate to bear the costs of returning her maid six months after her recruitment, “I could not have her around as she had lost my trust,” she said.
Umm Naif shared the last words of Shanti (Fatima) at the time of departure from Jeddah. “I will be back on housemaid visa provided by someone else.”
“I did not wish to further bother myself by reporting her to the labor office or to hire a lawyer. Instead, I simply applied for another housemaid in hope of a better substitute. I am, however, more cautious now especially, as a parent” said Umm Naif. – SG