Give Rights Before Thanksgiving
05 March 2016
By Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
The King Salman Social Center in Riyadh has recently launched a campaign
titled ''Shukran'' aimed at thanksgiving in word and deed, according to a report
carried by the Saudi Press Agency. This is a humanitarian gesture driven by
sublime moral values that have their origin in religious teachings. The
report, published by Okaz Arabic daily, said that the cultural and social wing
of the Center has organized a wide variety of recreational programs for
Filipino women workers. Those Filipino women who had an outstanding
performance during the year 2015 were felicitated at the function and received
gifts and winter clothes.
Speaking on the occasion, Princess Jawhara Bint Saud Bin Abdullah Bin Thunayan,
director of the women's wing of the Center, described thanksgiving as an art
which bolsters human relationships. It is good conduct to extend your thanks
and gratitude to those who offered you any favor or service, and this can be
done even with the simple word Shukran, which means thanks.
According to the princess, the thanksgiving campaign will continue throughout
the year. The thanksgiving will cover various segments of society such as the
elderly, foreign workers, working women and Muslim expatriates in the Kingdom.
It also entails extending cultural and social support and offering charity
through field visits carried out by the cultural and social wing in various
districts of Riyadh. Winter clothing is distributed to foreign workers
together with thanksgiving and appreciation for their commendable work.
There is no doubt that thanksgiving is an essential gesture. This is very
clear from the Saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): ''Allah is not
thankful to him who is not thankful to people.''
But in my opinion, what is required from us before carrying out a campaign to
extend thanks and appreciation to foreign workers and housemaids is to have
another campaign. This campaign should be aimed at providing them with their
due rights and treating them gently so as to ease their burden. It is quite
unjust and illogical to force a domestic worker to toil from morning until
midnight. It is also unfair that the housemaid is asked to obey orders
dictated by all members of the family even in those matters that family
members can do for themselves. Instead of doing such work themselves, they
want the housemaid to do it as if she were a machine. One of them asks her to
do one thing while the other one approaches her at the same time with an order
to stop it and do another thing. These commands are being issued without
giving the least consideration for her physical capacity and mental position.
There is also no sympathy for her and willingness to lend a helping hand in
The housemaid is not usually invited to dine with members of the family while
they eat. Most often, she is left alone to eat the leftovers of the family
members. This is not only an injustice to the housemaid but also a disgrace to
her. We have to hold fast to the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) in this
regard when he said: ''Yes, they (slaves or servants) are your brothers, and
Allah has put them under your command. So the one under whose hand Allah has
put his brother should feed him of what he eats and give him dresses of what
he wears, and should not ask him to do a thing beyond his capacity. And if at
all he asks him to do a hard task, he should help him therein.''
Moreover, how can we restrict the thanksgiving campaign to only Filipino
housemaids? It is well known that Filipino housemaids are dedicated, committed
and disciplined in their work. However, there are also housemaids from other
nationalities who are well known for their professional performance.
Therefore, I am of the view that the thanksgiving campaign must cover all
domestic workers, irrespective of their nationality. All these housemaids are
suffering from pangs of alienation and homesickness as they are compelled to
stay away from their kith and kin and near and dear ones in order to earn a
livelihood. These people deserve decent and fair treatment and appreciation so
that they can enjoy respect as fellow human beings. There is no doubt that
these women have to perform their duties. But at the same time, they are
entitled to have their due rights.
I emphasize here the case of housemaids in view of the fact that they are
subjected to more misconduct and deprivation of rights. The best evidence for
this are the daily incidents of runaway maids and their attempts to commit
suicide. However, we must not forget the street cleaners and their rights and
meager salaries. I have written about the plight of this segment of society
more than once. Several other writers have also dealt with this topic with an
appeal to force major companies to fulfill their contractual obligations as
far as these people are concerned. These big companies have won contracts for
huge amounts but give these workers only trivial wages that are quite
insufficient to make ends meet.
I hope the King Salman Social Center will take the initiative to launch
another campaign to ensure fair dealing for this underprivileged section of
society. Those companies and firms that delay the salary of these workers or
fail to pay it by the end of every month should be slapped with fines by the
— Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast
Asian affairs. He can be reached at email@example.com