Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Why Do You Want To Return?

"Pay the laborer his wages even before his sweat dries up."
- Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as reported by Ibn Majah on the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar.

"I want to go back." A friend confided to me. He was talking about returning to work in the Middle East. "The pay is better, no taxes, and best of all, it's a Muslim country. I can hear the azaan, I can pray and I can bring up my kids properly."

"I see." I replied. "It's a Muslim country. Really? You do remember you are a brown skinned desi right?"

"It's better than the racism I face here." He retorted. "They don't say it, but it's there."

He was ofcourse talking about Canada. A country that has given him land, citizenship, job, education, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and most of all - dignity. Return to the Middle East, and you are nothing more than a dark skinned rafik, a derogatory term used by Arabs for the desis.

I like visiting there. I like shopping there. But I will not like working there. Hearing the azaan five times a day while the imams who deliver the sermons do nothing about the plight of foreign workers there (while sermonizing the West about defending Islam from a poor powerless Afghan convert) is not my idea of a Muslim country.

The Washington Times carried the stories of few unskilled Asian workers. One cannot visit his hospitalized wife, another has seen his kids only 6 times in 26 years. According to reports by Human Rights organizations, in one of the Middle East nations there are only 80 inspectors for nearly 200,000 companies that hire foreign labourers. Racism is rampant, and open.

Classifieds ask for "US/UK/Canadian Educated Only" when looking for managers. When a brown man commits a crime, the newspapers proudly say "Asian convicted of crime ..." - as if Arabs from the Gulf are not Asians.

The fault is ours. Governments of Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka cannot create enough jobs for their millions of citizens. So they encourage them to go abroad and work in unskilled positions, and remain grateful for the foreign exchange they send back. However, they turn a blind eye to the abuses these workers have to suffer. Men who leave their wives and kids, borrow money by selling all they have, to procure a visa. They in turn work illegally and are not paid for months. They return, years later, with nothing much to show for it except broken families and lives.

Women, who leave their kids and husbands to go abroad and work as maids. They suffer from sexual abuse, rape, overwork and return to find their husbands having remarried, their children discarded and no help from their government. The cycle continues.

If I return, yes, I will get a work as a well paid manager. I will wear a suit and tie and have a Pakistani driver on call and an Indian waitor to make me tea whenever I want it. I will have an Indonesian maid to clean my house. I will have a Bangladeshi labourer slaving away at the machines. But I will be perpetuating that cycle of abuse. And the white guy next to me and who knows less than me will be earning triple my wages. And, meanwhile, the so-called Muslim country, that pays these labourers less than $4 A DAY will deduct their wages for time lost due to prayers. Yes, Muslim country indeed.


Workers stand on a plank they have used as a makeshift bridge over a stream of sewage in their camp.


Many bunkbeds in a single room serve as residences for these labourers

42 comments:

Crimson Mouzi said...

SubhanAllah! I never knew much about these. I always thought when people say we work in the UAE, my eyes lit up and went all dreamy because I have seen the beauty of that place but I never thought what kind of work most of these poor fellas would be doing!
What exactly does the word "Rafik" mean? Is that true that in Saudi, Bangladeshis are referred to as miskeen?
That reminds me of something bitter. Our family went to umrah back in 1993, and we all had B.Deshi passport back then. So we all were waiting in the line for the customs to clear us along with so many other people from many different countries. There was not a single person in the counter. But they had one line open for the people with "American Passport or British Passports" and wow, they went by pretty fast. The rest of the poor world was waiting there for good three hours or so before even an officer showed up in one of the counters.

We were the same people when standing in line in Heathrow and Los Angeles International, the custom people let us go ahead because my younger sister was like 2 yrs old. And yeah, those were non-Muslim countries!

State of the ummah, huh?
This post served as a good reminder!

Isheeta said...

I know the feeling. I'd go to visit, but working there... nope!! You forgot to mention about the abuse suffered by the 4 year old camel-riders, but I guess thats for another day.

Aisha said...

I agree with you. The way that people are treated there with our skin color is apalling. My brothers roomate is from Bangladesh but he grew up in Saudi and he said that the way he was treated, though his father was a professor, was not right. The ones who were unskilled were ofcourse treated even worse. HE told my brother htye'd be nice to him b/c he'd have the American gait so they'd treat him different but in there heart its much disdain. There are so manyv erses in the quran saying to the children of Israel not to think they are better than other sb/c they received the mesage etc but Arabs really think they're something else b/c the prophet preached to them. He chose them because they were the most pagan of their day and neeed the most work. Instead of being grateful so many injustices happen and the oil that God blessed them with is used to just fluff the houses and not better their nations. It's sad.

mystic-soul said...

remember...movie syriana?

Anonymous said...

I can identify with the separate lines for the 'caucasians' and the other line for 'brownies' in saudi arabia. its so demeaning especially when their goddamn economy is supported by brownies. but as your article mentions we can only thank out governments for allowing this kind of treatment to continue. I see the same attitude from other goddman arabs in the USA; freaking palestinians who barely have a high school education and cant speak much english act superior since they look 'white'. sometimes it makes me glad to see them get their asses reamed by Israelis. they have dog shit for brains which explains why half of them act like monkeys. what the f** is it anyways with all bangladeshi parties resulting in a discussion of poor palestinians getting their ass*es screwed?? in one of these parties i pointed out that they probably deserved it and never got an invite back. what is it with our deshi people kissing arab a** ??

Em said...

Good heavens, I'm appalled at Anon's language and intonation. I also disagree with his/her Arab hatred. Anyway...
An excellent post, Mezba!
I agree with the gist of the material, and that "the fault is ours" although I'm not sure I'm ready to point the finger at our (I speak of the subcontinent) governments insomuch as you've done. In my opinion, a large part of the blame should fall on the very workers themselves - we refuse to take up even a peon's job in our own Desh yet are perfectly happy scrubbing toilets in the MidEast. Like you've rightly pointed out, these same workers often return will little to show for their hard work overseas - and this is not unbenoknownst to the new breed preparing to sell their all to take off for similar unskilled jobs overseas.
Interesting discussion at any rate.

Shabina said...

This post made me sad. One the one hand, we have the Prophet (SAW)'s last sermon about nobody being superior expect in piety...and on the other hand we have the stark stinking reality of intra- and cross-cultural racism within the Muslim world, and without.

I know it seems daunting as individuals to tackle such widespread prejudice, but it really does start at home. Stop hating on the dark-skinned and the punjabis and the hispanics, etc etc. and iA things will start to change...

mezba said...

MFH: I don't know exactly what Rafik means. It could be a derogatory slang like Tony for Italian Americans or Chico for Mexicans.

Bangladeshis are indeed referred to as 'miskeen' (poor) in SA. And you are right, the basic Islamic qualities of politeness and consideration for families is missing from SA customs.

Isheeta: Yup, though I heard they replaced camel riders with robots now (seriously!).

Aisha: What is also ironic is that despite high unemployment amongst the youth in certain M.E. countries the Arabs still won't do certain jobs which they associate with 'darkies'. Rather, a whole generation is wasted on drugs and other evils.

About the Arab pride, what really irritates me is when non-Arab Muslim people (particularly white converts) copy Arab clothing and food, as if that makes them more Islamic. NO IT DOES NOT. Islam is not tied down to a particular culture. Tell me, how are you more Islamic if you eat a shawarma rather than a hot dog?

Mystic-soul: Ofcourse, thanx for mentioning that movie. I wanted to talk about Syrianna here but forgot about it.

Anon: I would use different words to express the rather strong feelings you have. I don't have a problem with Arabs but rather the governments (desi and arab) that allow this exploitation to continue and the clerics who do nothing about it.

Em: I understand what you are saying, but these poor workers also have no choices. They remind me of lemmings who jump enmasse over a cliff.

Unemployment is high back home, corruption is rife, jobs are gotten through 'wasta' (contacts) rather than education - and there are just enough people returning from the middle east with lots of money (plus all Bollywood movies showing stars cavorting there) to nudge them towards the promised land.

Anonymous said...

...and of course that's a completely different issue of people "leaving" the country. I mean before I say anything about anyone else, I would have to recognize my own hypocrisy there. If I left home for a better life, how can I say that these people should not have left home for these low-class jobs, where they could have gotten just as bad/good jobs at home.
We, students, come in the West using a great excuse, oh we are just getting an education here. For heaven's sake, we could get educated back home too. No one needs any institution to get educated, but probably for "recognition".

I may sound like a complete ingrate, but B. Desh is in a situation where my small brain can't really think of anything about fixing the situation. I grew up there, and heck yes, it was BAD! Let me give you an example, yes using "Palestine." In Palestine people are living in a piece of hell you could say. But a Pali may take comfort in knowing that their misery (for the most part) is being caused by the Israelis (as far direct effect is concerend), so their sorrows are results of Israelis'. So they have to go through check points everyday to go to school, hospital... you all kknow that. But ask ANY PALI about if they are going to college. When someone says, "yes" ask her/him about how many years it took them to graduate. I bet a thousand dollars, the answer is a regular "4 years." All right, let's fly over to Bangladesh, now ask the same question to anyone going to BUET, DU! Yeah "I am really 27, but my birth certificate says I am 22, I am about to take my final exam (or whatever) to graduate.You know they keep on pushing the exam date back." Yeah, if you put all these in context, BD may be in a worse situation than Palistine given that we, ourselves, inflict all this upon ourselves. Oh maybe you'll argue, NSU, IUB blah blah are different. They are private schools, way more expensive than what most people can afford!

Life is not all about making a living, but life is also about "living". I have personally met some laborers that were working in the UAE, KSA, and Malaysia. It was not only about the money that attracted them. It was the every passing day that seemed probably better than their days in the Desh, at least in their judgment.

In BD, the rich folks are having a great life exploiting the poor children of the society. The middle class people suffer the most, to even get the minimum K-12 education. And the ones that are in the bottom of the pit are in the bottom of the pit, living everyday probably hoping ro die anyway!

Please just don't me started on why peope leave the country. We have absolutely NO right talk about that given that we are all living outside the country. Not only that, we are living in the super power nations of the world.

Crimson Mouzi said...

that last comment was from "Mad Hatter"

mezba said...

When there are two regions of economic disparity, migration will always result.

Consider these two striking news stories.

Stray bullet kills S Asian expat. Read the linked article and come back here.

Notice that the American soldier was instantly arrested by the police. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown actually condemned him in very harsh words, "As a result of his thoughtless action, a young woman is now dead and her two small children must face the difficult and heartbreaking chore of adjusting to life empty of their mother's presence."

Now consider this story. 16 year old Pakistani girl jailed, deported. Sixteen-year-old Isma Mahmood was deported to Pakistan last month after serving six months in shackles and handcuffs in a prison in Saudi Arabia. Her crime: being raped by a Saudi man.

Which country's actions do you think are more Islamic?

Crimson Mouzi said...

of course the western countries!

I guess in my long comment I lost the point of your "original" post where the point was why would you want to leave Canada for a country like UAE just so you'd raise your children more Islamically (even though that chance is slim). And my last comment, evidently so, rambled on to responding to some previous comment which raised a question like "why do they leave BD for Dubai?"
I guess there is a number of issues we are talking about:

1) Leaving a non-Muslim country for a Muslim country in the Arab world where you will see more non-Islamic things.

2) Leaving Bangladesh for an Arab/Gulf countries and hence be victims of various injustice.

3) Leaving Bangladesh for a western country where you might find a better life, in general.

4) Leaving Bangladesh: period!

I guess my comment was really about this point: why would anyone want to leave Bangldesh? Given that situation in that country, me being a pure-bred Bangladeshi would actually ask how could we not expect people to leave?

Yes, so my last comment went off the topic of your original post. I just realized that! Sorry! I was more like responding to some previous comment made!

On another note, does anyone know if a girl has to bring "four witness" when she is raped? I heard different things about this. I am very disturbed by this practice, both because I am a woman myself, and secondly, most these things seem to happen in the name of Islam. And if so many countries (Bangladesh, Pakistan, SA, etc) practice this where they punish the victim, I was wondering if anyone knows any basis for this verdict! I have not seen anything in this line. Seriously been looking!

Em said...

Mez - I'm not sure I agree that these workers have no choices. I appreciate the unemployment situation, the corruption, the role models... but choices are there (in my opinion). I'm pressed for time, so I might get to it eventually Insha Allah if you're still interested in like, a week or so (lemme know, hoho..) BTW your "promised land" cracked me up :D

MFH - Too much passion for my liking, so I'd best refrain from responding to your 10.59pm comment lest I strike up the wrong nerves :).

Wassalaam.

Aisha said...

The story of the raped girl being jailed and deported is heart wrenching. I consider these countries, countries in which people avering to the Muslim faith live. Muslim countries? Hardly. that would be an insult to islam.

NAB said...

darn. i read this post yest. and was going to comment on it when I had more time. come back to realize i don't remember ANY of it, and now I have 4 times more the material that I need to read so as to be able to put down a proper coherent response to it.

However, I have an excuse for what I am about to say now. do remember ppl: my brain's fried, I am on caffeine overdose, and I have a limited number of minutes to spare. Hence all I can say is:

Long Live OPEC! I loved the country. And I love the fact that I am out of there now.

(yes, I realize that was pretty stupid. I have a lot to say on this topic though. sometime later, iA)

Crimson Mouzi said...

haha Nowal! By the way, I have not found anyone who doesn't like the UAE (don't know about the reast of the Arab world)! Everyone seems to love that country, even with all the discrimination and all the other bad things! Everyone loves that place. I have only been there for at the very most two days and hence I can't tell one way or the other! But outwardly, I LOVED THAT PLACE! ;)

long live OPEC! Heck yeah! We want that cheap oil... muhahahaha (sarcasm)

Anonymous said...

I just wanted share this really good piece about people BD! Click here

now, I really liked the way he presented his thoughts here. I still think when the really poor people in Bangladesh opt to leave the country, we can't criticize, the other people who could actually contribute could actually do a lot! But anyway, click on that and scroll down a bit and you will find Foreign Tablet.

Anonymous said...

"He was of course talking about Canada. A country that has given him land, citizenship, job, education, freedom of speech, freedom of movement and most of all - dignity."

What sort of dignity does one have driving a cab with an engineering degree? So, yes, this is no typical scenario for most, but it's a reality of many. I fail to see why immigrants make such a huge fuss about 'making the right decision' in coming to Canada, the big white North. Perhaps, it's some sort of mantra; you keep saying such, and maybe some day, you'll come to believe it.. or maybe you already have? Personally, although this wasn't my decision, coming to Canada has been one heck of a mistake. And I come from a place where the same party has been in power since independence, freedom of speech/press/organization/etc is suppressed, where racial prejudice is instutionalized and all that.

I guess I am not wondering why your friend would consider leaving this winter paradise.

Also, I'm not sure why you would bring into the discussion of religion with this specifically. Bangladeshis and others face equal discrimination in other parts of the world; i.e. Singapore, Malaysia, and yes, even Canada. Your commentators have gone wild on this issue of hypocricy that somehow it's a greater sin to have sinned if you consider yourself to be religious. It's wrong, regardless, so why should we confine ourselves to specific groups? Also, why should we turn the other cheek when we perpetuate similar sorts of discrimination, ourselves?

Lastly, I am sure being under occupation is extremely errotic! I fail to see how this Palestian issue has got anything to do with this; I suppose we can broaden the dartboard with anything nowadays.

However, I do agree with one thing: the Bangladeshi government needs to stop raising the issue that reminitance makes up 10% of their GDP and somehow it's a greater good to have people emigrating. Yet, I also think that the government is limited. We've been conditioned into thinking that a foreign environment is somehow superior, and that despite all the baggage that comes about in immigration, we're willing to put up with them. I think it's about time we realize that whatever changes assosciated with 'better living' has got to start indigenously. Indeed, this is a huge undertaking, but someone has to start something sometime. It's unfortunate that people who have emigrated have little intention of returning, and initiate some sort of change.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I have not found anyone who doesn't like the UAE (don't know about the reast of the Arab world)! Everyone seems to love that country, even with all the discrimination and all the other bad things! Everyone loves that place. I have only been there for at the very most two days and hence I can't tell one way or the other! But outwardly, I LOVED THAT PLACE!

Unfortunately thats the "tourist syndrome". When you spend a couple f days somewhere it often feels rosy because you dont really see the bad things.

But remember, just 3 miles from that state of the art shopping mall, 2 people are commiting suicide after not being allowed to go home even once in 3 years.

People com here, see all te glitzy towers and think that its the bst place on earth. How can one be so superficial?!
Inflation is sky high, workers cant change jobs, Caucasians get preferential treatment everywhere, unfortunately thats stuff you will face while living here and not while visiting...

MM

Anonymous said...

About the Arab pride, what really irritates me is when non-Arab Muslim people (particularly white converts) copy Arab clothing and food, as if that makes them more Islamic. NO IT DOES NOT. Islam is not tied down to a particular culture

Such an attitute helps perpetuate the mentality of some Arabs to think they they are superior. And its not restricted to white converts alone. Many educated Bangalis also wear the dishdasha in hope of getting some extra sawab.
I have also found many Americans/ABCDs tobe of the opinion that Saudi/UAE/Syria are the best places to learn about Islam, and that people here are the most "Islamic"

Anonymous said...

The above comment is by me, forgot to sign there,

MM

Anonymous said...

Bangladeshis and others face equal discrimination in other parts of the world; i.e. Singapore, Malaysia, and yes, even Canada. Your commentators have gone wild on this issue of hypocricy that somehow it's a greater sin to have sinned if you consider yourself to be religious



Hmm, actually maybe it is a greater sin. Because Islam shuns hypocrisy, and when you go and pray 5 times, yet follow that up with racism and drinking, it makes you a sinner and a hypocrite. And worse of all, some of these sinners willt ake it upon them to chastise people for not following Islam. So in that sense it is a bigger sin to know Islamic commandements, force them upon others, and yet not follow Islam themselves.

About discrimination, yes, we face it in the Eest, but people are not allowed to officially perpetrate their prejudices. On the other hand in Malaysia, Saudi, courts sometimes even punish rape victims as we saw based on the victims ethnicity. I doubt this will happen in Canada or elsewhere


MM

history_lover said...

One advantage of living in a muslim majority country is that you have easy access to Halal food and masjids.
Also avoiding contact alcohol is easier as compared to the "West"
That is we face less "religious hardship"

mezba said...

MM is not me.

Anonymous said...

One advantage of living in a muslim majority country is that you have easy access to Halal food and masjids.
Also avoiding contact alcohol is easier as compared to the "West"
That is we face less "religious hardship"




The first 2 points apply very much to me. As for religious hardship I am not exactly sure.
In the UAE, most companies dont look favorably upon beards and Hijabs. The onyl advantage I find in UAE is that I can pray on time very easily e.g. events are often planned to have prayer areas and prayer breaks.

Also, girls in Dubai wear scantier stuff than what I saw in LA and Miami, two of the most liberal cities in the USA with regards to clothing.

This topic is one to which I have given months of thought, and I am in the UAE now after completing my studies in the West. Till date, I havent found a satisfactory answer as to whether UAE is better or the west.

One thing is sure though, whether your family lives with you and whether you have a good job is a big factor.

E.g. An engineer will not like it if he is working in a KFC in Canada and used to work in PWD or Etisalat here. At the same time, a bachelor working 60 hrs a week and getting 3000 dhs in UAE will prefer going to Canada and working 40 hrs for thrice the pay.

MM (I have the same initials as Mezba, but we are 2 different individuals)

Anonymous said...

"About discrimination, yes, we face it in the Eest, but people are not allowed to officially perpetrate their prejudices. On the other hand in Malaysia, Saudi, courts sometimes even punish rape victims as we saw based on the victims ethnicity. I doubt this will happen in Canada or elsewhere"

Right. I am sure discrimination is alright as long as it's not officially inscribed in the constitution.. now, tell me which country (apart from Israel) has done so? Even in Singapore, where racism is indeed a domestic policy in terms of job employment and education, the government has never stated this officially. In the US, it has been published that an African American is more likely to be given the death penalty over his White counterpart, in spite of the civil rights movement. There are judicial discrepencies everywhere.

If you're going to pick and choose the countries you scrutinize, I can do the same.

You would be surprised to learn that in Morocco, the judicial system had been balanced in part due to the implemention of the Shari'ah law.

Also, "Iran now has one of the best prison programs for HIV in not just the region, but in the world," said Dr. Hamid Setayesh, the coordinator for the U.N. AIDS office in Tehran. "They're passing out condoms and syringes in prisons. This is unbelievable. In the whole world, there aren't more than six or seven countries doing that."

Mad (Flat)-Hatter said...

you are absolutely right MM (mezba, is it?) :)
That's why I said, "outwardly" I loved that place! You gotta admit they have good food and stuff! :p

By the way, I don't know about Canada, but in the US, the Caucasians also get preferential treatment in the United States and that's why whenever they do a Public Health survey regarding access to quality medical treatment, a question asked to minority patients, is "how did your doctor treat you"?
Caucasians do get preferences in everything in the World, be it in the East or the West. We can't do much about that! I mean, really what could we do about this?
ANd I only have non-khalijh Arab and American friends that have experienced the UAE. So there is a world of difference in perspective. My BD friends are so Bangladeshi that they have never set their foot outside the country. So I really don't know how B.Deshis feel about it. The highly educatd BD professionals that I know "love" that place. So I am assuming it's the poor people that suffer the most. But that's just the norm of the world, I think.
And as I said, I have been there at the very most 48hrs with tourist syndrome! I can't judge a place based on some nice hotel experience. But it was nice. They can at least acommodate tourists safely, which a lot of countries in the world can't!

Anonymous said...

I've also noticed that many people made an equivalence between drinking alcohol and being in some way, 'non-Islamic'. The issue with alcohol was highly deliberated upon during the the period of Revelation. Drinking alcohol was not haram as long as one did not come for the prayers drunk. Indeed this was later transformed, but one can readily take that the issue was not the most important distinction between who could be regarded as being Islamic and who couldn't. Also, Sufis still drink alcohol and often, they make anologies between drinking with their complete withdrawal to God.

Basically, my only point is that it's not upto a tertiary individual to point out whether one is Islamic or not. Malaysians consume one of the highest amount of beer per capita, but I fail to see how their religious identity is in any way conflicted.

It's simply because of these sorts of discussion regarding the degree of one's Islamic ideals that has led to the isolation of the different sects of Islam. This is why the Bangladeshi government felt it necessary to label the Ahmediyya's non-Islamic, or have we just forgotten that episode?

Anonymous said...

Also, Sufis still drink alcohol and often, they make anologies between drinking with their complete withdrawal to God.

Doesnt prove anythign at all. The Quran c;ear;y states that "Khamr" i.e. alcohol/wine is Haram for drinking and thats that. If one follows it or not is between him/her and Allah.

If you start making your owninterpretation, then i am sure someone else will believe Quran doesnt forbid fornication as well.

There are many gray areas in Islam, alcohol is not one of them.

Anonymous said...

Right. I am sure discrimination is alright as long as it's not officially inscribed in the constitution.. now, tell me which country (apart from Israel) has done so?
There are judicial discrepencies everywhere.



There is racism in the USA, but will a black girl be whipped and deported if she is raped by a white?

Or will you be told to get behind a Caucasian in line?

Newspapers in UAE advertised for extras when Syriana was shot in Dubai, and they clearly stated "Only Lebanese/Egyptians/UAE Locals and Americans/Europeans of Western origin will be allowed". Can you imagine a newspaper advert in the USA saying something like this?


Such things happen in the ME and to a lesser extent in Far Eastern countries, but discrimination in USA/Canada is yet to be at such levels.


MM
(For the last time, I am not Mezba!!!)

Em said...

For those who know my initials, I want to mention that I am NOT this MM either.

Wassalaam.

Anonymous said...

I do recall saying that the issue with alcohol was highly deliberated, and indeed, it was later transformed to the current law. This is not an interpretation; this was what happened.

"Newspapers in UAE advertised for extras when Syriana was shot in Dubai, and they clearly stated "Only Lebanese/Egyptians/UAE Locals and Americans/Europeans of Western origin will be allowed". Can you imagine a newspaper advert in the USA saying something like this?"

Maybe they should so as to not have a 100% Chinese cast about a movie based on Japanese culture..!

Frankly I don't have a specific example of a rape case where there was racial discrimination, but well, many states in the U.S have made abortion illegal even for women who were raped. So yeh, there! And did you forget about Canadian involvement with the Maher Arrar's case?

Mariam said...

Mezba,

Very nice post.

Ever thought about doing something for it? As it is much easier for you as a Muslim and an Intelligent guy to penetrate in the system.

Anonymous said...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12538279/

A very interesting article on the UAE.

a city where occupation is often stratified by race: Asian laborers, Lebanese and Western managers, Emirati owners. A proposed subway that will begin operating in 2010 will reserve one of five cars for VIPs

It may be possible that they will segregate subway cars by race with Caucasians having a reserved car for them.

Amin and Miah's complaints echoed others: The company seized their passports when they entered the country, their pay comes months late, complaints can lead to deportation and they make too little to offset the $175 they pay every month for rent and food

"This is what we have in our country," said Miah, smiling. "I never thought Dubai would be like this."

"It's worse than our country," Amin said. He grimaced. "Is it not? Sitting in dirt and eating dirt?"


Yes sir, that country is Bangladesh.

On the other hand , the lebanese managers will be saying "the UAE is much better than Canada".

Most Egyptians and Lebanese prefer the UAE over the USA/Canada mainly because they can get away with not paying salaries and racism here, while in the USA, Bangladeshis are treated the same as Arabs.

MM

Lois said...

Fascinating thread of post and comments. I just read a comment by you at Jason Cherniak and popped over to look at more - hope to see you again in the future.

Maleeha said...

great post and great commentary. i will blog about this soon. the pakistani girl's story is heart-wrenching and enraging.

Rider of Rohan said...

That was an excellent and sensitive post, especially coming from and Arab. In a way, the workers are in a dual fix - do the same job here, but earn very little money, do menial jobs (at a great cost) and earn a lot of money. We cannot blame the governments for not creating jobs in desi countries.
And a great misconception that must be rooted out among Muslims is that anything Arab does not imply 'Islamic'. I think its pathetic that Muslims are not using their mental faculties and realizing that they can have their own culture, language and traditions, music, and yet be a practicing Muslim. Its almost as if every non-Arab Muslim wants to lick Arab feet and emulate and copy him as much as possible. Where is basic human self respect ?
And another issue is the illtreatment of the immigrant labour force. It is appalling. Why hire foreign workers, maids, and other people for menial jobs when you treat them like slaves.
I have come across Arabs, and their pride and arrogance is unmatched over all of the world's populace. They talk about the West being racist, when they are the most racial people. They look at dark skinned people disparagagingly, in a highly demeaning manner, and at the same time, they want to cosy up to the whites, and follow them and respect them.
Meanwhile, the pathetic desi population follows current Arab trends of partying, of women wearing minimal clothing uner the abayas, of drinking etec.. all because, 'its done by Arabs, by Muslim men and women, so why can't we do it ?'
In the end, we must all realize that being Arab does not necessarily imply being a practicing Muslim.
We must all be proud of our heritage and past and culture.
And being a Muslim, I can only say that its not between Arab and non-Arab or Muslim and non-Muslim.. but between being a believer and a non-believer.

Just want to end by saying that your blog is excellent. You are one of my faves on the blogsphere!!

mezba said...

Thanks all for the comments. Wow, this generated a lot of them! Especially after Washington Times picked up this post. I usually get like 3 or 4 comments, including my replies! I don't know what can be done about this issue. I pray we develop an electric car quickly, so we have to stop depending on oil. Then the middle east can go back to being irrelevant (which will be a blessing to them) and meanwhile, I urge everyone to help contribute (via zakaat money) to poor relatives in B'desh and other desi places, particularly in helping with a kid's education.

luckyfatima said...

hi mezbah

whoa this is an interesting discussion. i'm like 3 weeks late. But...Yes the local people are awfully racist against S. Asians. There are so many dispicable examples I could give u that would make you reel and want to throw up. Inshallah the people living in those labour camps will get justice. The spot light is on the Gulf these days, Inshallah khair. One thing though, not to let the Gulf off of the hook, but the workers who come from these jobs live awful lives of poverty in the desh, too. And desi society is extremely classist and those type of guys, the anpar, jaahil, villagers, servants, kooli---that's what middle class and elites think of them back home in the desh---don't have options for upward mobility in their own countries so they come in droves here because they can make a lot more money and help uplift their families. They are big heros as far as I am concerned. (now there is a larger system of exploitation leading back to US/Western hegemony on global economy that also keeps these people poor, so I am not simply blaming elites in the desh, but that IS a factor)

I know a lot of local Arab people so I hear their racism first hand. It is sickening. My husband, a Pakistani, doesn't see or hear any of it. He works for a British company and is surrounded by everyone except Gulf Arabs. I think desi people from the professional classes here are much less exposed to the racism because most employment situations are like that. Locals are mainly visible in the public sector and public sector jobs are mainly reserved for them so foreigners don't really interact with locals and get the racism very much. Unless they get in a car accident or have a run in with the law and then they realize that it doesn't matter if they are rich, educated professionals, they are desis so they are automatically guilty. But for example 40% of Dubai's population is from India. People are lined up to come here because of the opportunity, professional and non-professional. When I go to a desh and I tell people I have come from Dubai I get people sending resumes with me and even "laborer" types asking if I know anyone who can hook them up. So it isn't as simple as "all the Arabs are evil racists" there is a lot at play here.

By the way, in Swahili speaking countries in E. Africa, Indians are also called Rafik. It means "friend" but is used as a racist word because people from the desh use Rafique as a first name and Arabs don't. They are also called "boss" in a pejorative way.

Miskeen means poor, and anyone poor gets called miskeen because they are from the misakeen. It may be used in Saudi in a derogatory sense but I have never heard it used that way in the UAE or Oman for desis in particular.

luckyfatima said...

mezbah we could all be using cars that run on ethanol from corn and sugar cane. brazil does it. it is not just the EEEVILLE Gulf Arabs benefitting from this system of the oil economy.

dawud al-gharib said...

now, EEVILLE is evil, no doubt. hatred is not a virtue, and greed is not a *good thing* - and while 'muslims' have been oppressing their 'muslim brothers and sisters' for a long time (india and arabia have grievances with each other going way, way back and two centuries ago, Moghuls and rich Hindu businessmen were using Arab workers and 'coolies' in just the same way - not that justifies anything, but it puts history and our own time into perspective)

Islam is not responsible for the EVIL that the Arabs do, most of them are as ignorant as the Qur'an states, Surah Tawba, ayaat 97: "al-'arabu asshadu kufraan wa nifaaqan" [the bedouin are the strongest in disbelief and hypocrisy] and things haven't much improved in 14 centuries.

May Allah guide all of us, and be Merciful upon us, despite our faults. And it's part of the Mercy of Allah that this deen has withstood such opponents and tyrants, and remains unsullied and as crystal-clear a voice as it was when revealed in Mecca 1426 Hijri years ago.

Suroor said...

This is very sad and very true. it is one reason I don't like the Gulf at all but I tell you, racism is everyone now.

This may have nothing to do with religion, really. I think it is more to do with colonialism and "kiss-the-white-arse-syndrome." But,If we want to look at this from Islam's point of view, the biggest problem with Muslims is that we think Quran is carved in stone and we must never try to re-interpret it. What we fail to see it that those laws need to be changed with time e.g., slavery cannot be practiced today - fullstop.