Sunday, July 05, 2009

Undercover as a Saudi Maid

A Saudi journalist went for an undercover assignment as a 'Saudi' maid.

Note from a blogger: Ministry of Labor made a proposal allowing Saudi women to work under very specific arrangements and guidelines as “home arranger”. The term ‘maid’ was abandoned in this case because it wasn’t ‘dignified’ enough when applied to the domestic activities of a Saudi woman.

I will not dare to imagine to have a local Emirati woman as a maid or "home arranger".

Saudi housemaids: Putting concept to test

JEDDAH – Resolved to go through with it, I had a last minute meeting with my editor-in-chief to discuss what would happen should anything untoward befall me, and he kindly responded by saying he would gladly publish my obituary on the first inside page of the next issue of Roaa magazine!
I had already approached an employment agency who found me a position, and having equipped myself with a tiny hidden camera and audio recorders mascarading as music devices I contacted the agency to obtain the address of my new workplace. They refused to give it to me, however, saying that instead the agency would take me there by car. The nervous refusal to go into any details disturbed me slightly. I went to the agency’s office and waited, and eventually a Saudi driver was arranged to take me to the unknown destination. As I set off with my photographer colleague Hayat secretly in tow I tried to get as much information from the driver as possible concerning the experiences of girls who had previously worked for the agency. His responses came with a sardonic smile.

Body search
We arrived at the house, with Hayat slyly managing to take photographs from behind a tree as I left the car and made my way in, and then I was taken into the house.
I was greeted by the wife of the household with a quick body search which she said was necessary in case I was carrying a mobile telephone with a camera, and I thanked the fact that I had hidden my mobile in one of the trainers I was wearing. The audio recorder was hidden in the other. My camera, which was smaller than my little finger, was hidden in my hair.
My sense of apprehension rocketed as she conducted the search, so much so that I thought my racing heartbeats might even give me away! Fortunately, however, she didn’t notice and continued her police-style investigation with a series of questions.
When that finally came to an end she proceeded to inform me of the dress-code and other instructions, such as it being forbidden for me to talk to her husband or her sons, and that any request from them would come through her on their behalf or written on paper.

Saudi suspicion
I was told I would have to clean the kitchen and its utensils three times a day, and that I shouldn’t expect any leniency on account of my being a Saudi, but quite the contrary, that being a Saudi meant I should be more aware of the customs and traditions of our society.
I entered the kitchen to inspect my new world, and with a force I didn’t know I had in me I did the washing up in no time. A few minutes later I received the order to start making lunch and a cake, as the man of the house by all accounts had a sweet tooth.
At that moment my memory deserted me, and couldn’t recall how to make even the simplest of things, so I started chopping vegetables instead, whereupon the wife warned me to wash my hands and chop them carefully and in accordance with her instructions I managed to use up three-thirds of the vegetables in the chopping process, as the top bits alone were deemed enough by the wife.
The wife was ceaseless in her chidings whenever I put something where it did not belong, but I put up with it in silence. Then the wife started to try and soften me up: “If you come across anything that might be of embarrassment while I’m out of the house,” she said, winking in the direction of her husband, “tell me straightaway and I’ll reward you for it.”
I suddenly felt a bit scared, but I pretended I had no idea of what she might be talking about. Once she left the house I took some photographs.
With the mother out of the house, I felt her sons looking at me like some sort of prey, and they spoke to me and tried to get me to take off my veil, “for my own comfort”, as they put it. One of them suggested we have dinner together, but I refused.
When their mother returned she saw the work I had done and we got to chatting until she became more relaxed, so I started trying to find out about previous housemaids that had worked for her. She described that some of them as “completely without morals”, and said she knew her husband had had relationships with most of them. She also told me how she would get her revenge by being cruel to them until they either fled or she kicked them out.

Extra services
When I asked her the reason for husband’s behavior her mood changed and she frowned, saying sharply: “Get back to your work! I don’t have time to talk to you!”
The wife went out of the house again and left me with her child and her 20-year-old daughter, who was always busy with nothing, forever talking on her mobile telephone. She went back to her room continuing her conversation.
As I went about my business in the house I came across the husband coming in the door, and as soon as he saw me heading back to the kitchen he called me, so I turned back to him in silence. My silence seemed to perturb him, and he started talking to me.
The husband asked me what my real name was and if I was really a Saudi, saying he wanted to hear my life story. He said he could find me someone to take care of me in exchange for certain services not part of my remit as a housemaid, and when I asked him what those services might entail he said things like working as a masseuse, which he said could earn me a lot of extra money. He assured me he would only do such a thing especially for me, and asked it be kept between us. He then asked me to first take off my veil so he could see me, but I refused and ran off to the kitchen.

At this point I really needed to escape for a bit, so I went to the bathroom and got out my mobile telephone and saw I had had a call from my editor-in-chief. I called him back and he gave me some pointers for the article.
As I went about the cleaning, I pondered on previous articles I had written on the subject of housemaids and the new light through which I was seeing the subject following my own first hand experience.
I continued with my work by making the cake and preparing to receive guests, but when the wife returned and found her husband home she started having a go at me for being in the kitchen in front of him.
When I replied that I was only acting under her orders to get everything ready for her friends she calmed down a bit, but she was still not completely convinced when she left.
After a couple of more hours in the kitchen and a further hour of cleaning in the bathroom I saw my recorder had run out of battery, and I decided I had done enough. I left the house and ran to Hayat who had been waiting for me in her car, and I was overcome with a sense of relief just to be out of the house.
And as we drove away I wondered: Should not the authorities carry out similar secret inspections to uncover and eradicate some of the behavior of families in their treatment of housemaids?
Without wishing in any way to detract from the value of the profession and those who pursue it, I find it difficult to see how Saudi women can be encouraged to take it up at this point in time without society at large being made aware of how to treat others and learning to feel for them and appreciate them as people. – Roaa/SG

While at the employment agency that found Rozana work as a housemaid, her colleague Hayat took the opportunity to talk to some of the girls seeking work there.
One girl, “Samiya”, said she had previously found unofficial work at a school as a cleaner after the death of her father put her family in dire straits. “But they didn’t pay me my money,” Samiya said, “so when it was suggested to me that I come to the agency which would guarantee me payment at twice the amount I brought my certificates and found work which lasted four months. I personally feel no shame as it’s honorable work, but some of the treatment I get tears me up inside.”
“Alya” completed secondary school and was employed by a foreign man who she had met through her former job as a hospital worker.
“I stayed with him and his family for two years and eight months,” Alya said.
“They gave me twice my previous pay and was happy working for him and his family the whole time. When he left the country he told me about this agency so I came here, but there’s a difference in the way that family treated me and the way many Saudi families make me feel ashamed and humiliated.”


Sheikh Abdul Mohsen Al-Obeikan says it is permissible for a Saudi woman to work as a housemaid given that women in the time of the Prophet worked in houses. There must, however, be conditions and regulations in place, such as that the woman has no contact with the master of the house, that she does not spend the night, and that her working hours are fixed.
Sheikh Hassan Al-Shamrani dislikes the word “housemaid” and prefers the use of “home arranger” to respect a woman’s dignity. “I support Saudi women working as housemaids,” Al-Shamrani says, “but only if she is in desperate need of the work and can find no other… She must not mix with male members of the household and must spend the night in her own house, but most importantly she must not abandon her hijab and her modesty. If any of those conditions fail to be fulfilled, then it would be better for her to not work.”
The Grand Mufti of the Kingdom has warned Saudi women against working as housemaids.


Housewife Areej Ali is forthright in her views: “I’m against it. If you look at the problems that have occurred with foreign housemaids then the problem with Saudi ones will be twice as bad. I would never trust a Saudi girl, especially given that our husbands end up marrying them after letting themselves be won over and dominated by them.”

Misteri istilah Wahabi

Ada beberapa nama ulama dan pendakwah yang sering dikaitkan sebagai orang Wahabi, salah seorangnya ialah mantan mufti Perlis, Dr. Asri yang menulis artikel dibawah.

Misteri istilah Wahabi

Perkataan Wahabi dalam penulisan Barat mempunyai berbagai huraian. Kesemuanya menjurus kepada aliran Islam yang dilihat begitu berpegang kepada nas-nas al-Quran dan al-Sunnah secara literal dan enggan melihat tafsiran lebih moden atau tafsiran yang agak western influence.

Clinton Bennet memasukkan Wahhabis dan Deobandis di bawah kelompok traditionalists yang bererti sekali gus berada di bawah aliran fundamentalist (lihat: Muslim and Modernity 18-20, London: Continuum).

Sebahagian penulisan Barat melihat Wahabi sebagai aliran yang menganggap 'hanya Islam agama yang benar', wajib menegakkan Islamic State, adanya 'jihad' menentang kuffar dan ciri-ciri lain yang dianggap unsur 'padang pasir' sekali gus cuba dikaitkan dengan terorisme.

Di Malaysia pula, Wahabi adalah perkataan misteri. Apa tidaknya, ramai yang menyebutnya atau memfitnah orang lain dengan menggunakan perkataan itu, padahal mereka pun tidak faham.

Bagi mereka, ia senjata untuk mempertahankan diri ketika dikritik. Saya masih ingat, di satu tempat di sebelah Utara, apabila ada imam yang mengenakan bayaran untuk solat dan zikirnya, lalu dia dikritik atas sikap salahguna agama untuk kepentingan diri, dengan mudah dia menjawab: "Siapa tak setuju dengan saya dia Wahabi".

Pemberi nasihat yang barangkali tidak terdedah kepada banyak maklumat dan kali pertama mendengar perkataan itu, terpinga-pinga bertanya: "Apa itu Wahabi?". Jawab tok imam: "Siapa yang mengkritik ustaz dia Wahabi". Maka tidaklah berani lagi 'penasihat' itu berbeza pandangan dengan 'tok imam' dan mempertikaikan infallibility ustaz, takut jadi Wahabi.

Di sesetengah tempat, seseorang dituduh Wahabi kerana menentang amalan khurafat. Umpamanya, menggantung gambar orang tertentu seperti sultan atau tok guru dengan kepercayaan boleh menambah untung atau rezeki, atau mengikat benang hitam di tangan bayi yang baru lahir atas kepercayaan menolak sial atau bala dan berbagai kekarutan yang menghantui sebahagian masyarakat.

Malangnya amalan-amalan ini bukan sahaja mendapat restu sesetengah yang bergelar 'ustaz', bahkan merekalah punca. Jika ada yang mengkritik, untuk mempertahankan diri maka 'sang ustaz' itu dengan mudahnya akan menyebut: 'awak Wahabi'.

Sama juga, mereka yang tidak bersetuju dengan kenduri arwah dituduh Wahabi. Padahal kitab Melayu lama Bughyah al-Talab karangan Syeikh Daud al-Fatani sendiri menyebut: "(dan makruh) lagi bidaah bagi orang yang kematian membuat makanan menyeru segala manusia atas memakan dia sama ada dahulu daripada menanam dia dan kemudian daripadanya seperti yang diadatkan kebanyakan manusia (dan demikian lagi) makruh lagi bidaah bagi segala yang diserukan dia memperkenankan seruannya".

Jika pun mereka tidak dapat menerima bahan mereka sendiri, mengapa mereka merasa diri infallible, dan mengharamkan orang lain berbeza dengan mereka dengan menggunakan senjata 'awak Wahabi'.

Sesetengah kelompok agama pula, mereka membaca dan menyebarkan riwayat-riwayat yang tertolak; seperti Israliyyat yang bercanggah dengan nas-nas Islam, hadis-hadis palsu atau kisah-kisah wali atau sufi yang menjadikan manusia keliru tentang keanggunan Islam.


Mereka menyebarkannya dalam ceramah dan sesetengahnya menjadikannya modal untuk 'bisnes' mereka. Islam menjadi kabur dengan cerita-cerita itu dan menyebabkan agama agung ini kelihatan bagaikan 'kartun' dan 'lucu'.

Jika ada yang menegur para penceramah ini; jawapannya 'awak Wahabi'. Walaupun yang menegur itu tidak pernah pun membaca buku Muhammad bin 'Abdul Wahhab.

Lebih buruk lagi apabila isu Wahabi digunakan oleh pihak berkuasa agama. Jika ramai pegawai agama itu atau yang sealiran dengan mereka bertarekat, atau pembaca hadis-hadis palsu dan lucu, maka mana-mana sahaja guru yang mengajar al-Quran dan hadis sahih serta tidak bersetuju dengan kekeliruan itu akan disenaraikan sebagai Wahabi dan diharamkan mengajar di masjid dan surau.

Nama sultan akan digunakan. Dalam masa yang sama mereka membiarkan kemungkaran yang jelas di sana sini, lalu sibukkan diri dengan kelompok revivalist yang tidak mengancam masyarakat sama sekali. Jika ada pun, ancaman itu kepada pemikiran kejumudan dan kekolotan, bukan kepada masyarakat.

Untuk menjustifikasikan kesibukan mereka dengan kelompok ini sehingga meninggalkan kemungkaran hakiki, mereka kata: "ini lebih bahaya kerana Wahabi". Apa itu Wahabi? Jawab mereka Wahabi itu Wahabi! Sikap ini menjadi lebih panas apabila munculnya di Malaysia 'aliran pengkafir umat' yang bernama Ahbash yang bersekongkol dengan sesetengah pihak agama.

Di peringkat yang lebih tinggi, istilah Wahabi dikenakan kepada mereka yang tidak terikat dengan mazhab al-Syafii. Kononnya, mereka yang tidak ikut mazhab itu Wahabi. Saya telah sebut nas-nas ulama tentang hal ini dalam artikel-artikel yang lepas. Persis seperti yang disebut oleh Dr al-Qaradawi: ''Golongan yang taksub ini tidak membolehkan sesiapa yang mengikut sesuatu mazhab keluar daripadanya, sekalipun dalam beberapa masalah yang jelas kepada pengikut mazhab bahawa dalil mazhabnya lemah. Sehingga mereka menyifatkan sesiapa yang keluar mazhab sebagai tidak berpendirian. Perbuatan ini sebenarnya mewajibkan apa yang tidak diwajibkan oleh Allah swt" (Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Al-Sahwah al-Islamiyyah bain al-Ikhtilaf al-Masyru' wa al-Tafarruq al-Mazmum, m.s 202, Kaherah: Dar al-Sahwah).

Apa yang menariknya di Malaysia, sesetengah 'mereka ini' apabila menjadi 'penasihat-penasihat' bank, bagi memenuhi keperluan bank yang beroperasi atas nama Islam itu, mereka bersetuju pula dengan pandangan hukum yang diambil tanpa mengikut mazhab.

Bahkan pandangan Syeikhul Islam Ibn Taimiyyah r.h begitu banyak diambil dalam masalah muamalat ini. Ini kerana, di seluruh dunia pandangan beliau memang dikutip dalam memajukan masyarakat Islam. Padahal 'sesetengah mereka ini' di luar mesyuarat bank yang ber'elaun' itu, mereka menuduh Ibn Taimiyyah Wahabi, dan sesiapa yang bersetuju dengan Ibn Taimiyyah sebagai Wahabi. Bahkan di luar bank mereka bersekongkol dengan golongan yang mengkafirkan atau menyesatkan Ibn Taimiyyah.

Demikian ketika saya menjadi mufti dahulu, apabila saya memberikan pandangan larangan mengintip (tajassus), boleh menjawab salam bukan Muslim, wajib membinkan kepada bapa asal sekalipun bapanya bukan muslim, masjid untuk kaum Cina, keluasan menerima pandangan dan lain-lain lagi, maka pandangan-pandangan ini dituduh oleh sesetengah pihak agama sebagai Wahabi.

Padahal pandangan tersebut jika dibincangkan di Barat dianggap dalam aliran modernism atau rationalism dan penentangnya mungkin akan dimasukkan kepada kelompok Wahabisme. Di Malaysia, sebaliknya, yang terbuka itu Wahabi dan sesat, yang tertutup itulah yang 'membolot segala kebenaran'.

Cara fikir beginilah yang menguasai sektor-sektor agama kerajaan dan mencepatkan 'pereputan' kekuatan kerajaan yang ada. Cara fikir begini jugalah yang menguasai sesetengah aliran agama dalam pembangkang. Sebab itu barangkali, lima puluh tahun kemerdekaan, bukan Muslim bukan sahaja tidak bertambah faham, sebaliknya bertambah keliru dan tegang mengenai Islam.


Tindakan mereka ini mengingatkan saya kepada artikel David Brubaker bertajuk Fundamentalism vs Modernism: A Consideration of Causal Conditions bahawa penentangan terhadap pembaharuan lebih merujuk kepada masalah survival kelompok. Dalam usaha untuk hidup dan terus mendapat tempat dalam masyarakat dan kerajaan maka golongan pembaharuan akan ditentang.

Bagi saya, bukan isu Wahabi sebenarnya, tetapi bimbang terpinggirnya tempat dan kedudukan. Namun, apabila mereka merasa ada ruangan untuk mendapat 'kedudukan' seperti isu perbankan tadi, mereka dapat pula menerima pandangan yang berbeza tanpa menuduh bank yang memberi elaun bulanan dan elaun mesyuarat itu sebagai 'bank mazhab Wahabi'.

David Brubaker menyebut untuk survival mereka terpaksa memilih antara dua accomodation or resistance. Maka, di Malaysia ramai yang dituduh Wahabi, namun ia adalah tuduhan misteri. Saya juga tidak menafikan ada yang dianggap Wahabi itu sendiri perlu bertolak ansur dalam sebahagian pendapat. Namun, untuk menuduh orang lain Wahabi hanya kerana perbezaan pendapat, itu adalah sikap jakun yang cuba hidup di zaman globalisasi.

Dr. Mohd Asri ZainUl Abidin ialah bekas mufti Perlis.