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Conscience Takes A Back Seat


26 February 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

As children, most of us were taught the difference between right and wrong and good and evil, and how one path would take us toward righteousness while the other would led to damnation. And we held on tightly to that childhood creed in order to make us better human beings.

But along the way as we got older, wires seem to have got crossed, and the solid line between right and wrong became a little blurry to some people. They remain good people, but as I see it, their conscience has taken a back seat.

I was at Farid's office when he received a call from his son. I could only hear one side of the conversation, but the gist of it seemed to be that some rental contract was needed. When he hung up, Farid looked perplexed. I asked him if all was okay. ''Yes, it's just that my son needs a house rental contract from me and I don't know if a real estate office will provide one.''

''Your son is living in the duplex you built for him in the back of your residence. Is he paying you rent?''

''No, but he needs a rental contract to avoid paying the SR3,500 university fees as an external student. You see, if he has a rental contract, the university foregoes the fee requirement to alleviate additional financial burdens,'' Farid explained.

''Wait a minute, Farid. Your son has a good paying job, he is living at home for free, and you want to get him a fake rental contract? Isn't that cheating? The university's intent is to help students with financial burdens and not someone like your son. He should not ask for an exception and neither should you provide him with a contract,'' I admonished.

Looking at me with a wry smile, Farid replied: ''Tariq, the system teaches everybody to do it. So why shouldn't I?'' I left before I blew a fuse.

Every year prior to the month of Ramadan there is a huge demand for household help. Ads are everywhere as desperate housewives seek helping hands for the month of fasting when more food is prepared and served than at any other time of the year. Not to mention that most food is probably thrown away during the holiest of all Islamic months. Many domestic workers also take advantage of the situation by leaving their sponsors unannounced and searching for the highest bidder.

I had been invited to Mohamed's house for an Iftar (breaking the fast) gathering last Ramadan. His household was in disarray a few weeks earlier when his two housemaids decided to quit and left the country. Looking at the wide array of dishes prepared for the guests, I remarked to Mohamed that his domestic help issue must have been resolved and that he must have recruited and received new help from overseas.

''No, I haven't yet. The visas are with the recruitment agency, but it is taking a long time. That is why we had to hire locally at exorbitant wages. We were lucky to find two women, one a Sri Lankan and the other an Indonesian who agreed to work for us. Thank God, otherwise my wife would have gone crazy.''

''Are these workers on legal work visas,'' I asked. ''Have you checked and verified their documents? Are they legal? They could have run away from their previous sponsors.''

''Who cares, Tariq? They are here right now and they are being paid. They are providing us a service that we are desperately in need of. You know the household demands during this month with family and friends dropping by. We needed help.''

''Mohamed, did you ever stop to wonder if these workers left another home in dire straits by disappearing without notice? Perhaps there is hardship in a home that desperately needed them. It could have been an elderly lady they worked for, or a young divorced mother with children who needed to be looked after while she was at work. Not all sponsors are bad. You and I know that greed has caused many domestic workers to desert their lawful sponsors, especially prior to Ramadan.''

I wanted to ask him how he and his family could sit there and enjoy food prepared by someone who could by her presence in their home have been the source of anguish to the household she left behind. How can we justify such actions and satiate our hunger while others somewhere else may be suffering?

My thoughts were quickly interrupted by Mohamed. ''Dive into your food Tariq before it gets cold. Besides, if we didn't hire them, believe me there are thousands who would. Now enjoy yourself.''

How could I? The line between right and wrong has not been blurred to that degree.

The author can be reached at talmaeena@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena
 

  EsinIslam.Com

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