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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 work.

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 concerned authorities.

Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi is a former Saudi diplomat who specializes in Southeast Asian affairs. He can be reached at algham@hotmail.com
 

  EsinIslam.Com

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