This week, a very popular Kuwaiti vlogger named Sondos Alqattan decided to go on Instagram and vent about Kuwait’s new law that allows Filipino workers one day off a week. The new law also allows workers to retain control over their passports. Please keep in mind that she has 2.3 million followers on Instagram alone. This means that her words influence how many young and impressionable minds will view this world. Her actions have a consequence whether she likes it or not.
The only way to describe how out of touch Sondos is with reality is to explain that she is from a Gulf country. These countries have massive amounts of wealth among a small elite who sit sequestered away from the rest of the world. These wealthy individuals abuse a system of sponsoring workers called kafala. This system allows employers the power to take away workers’ passports, withhold their salaries, and subject them to abuse. Sondos even mentions in her video how she doesn’t want a maid from the Philippines because the maid would have access to her passport and she doesn’t know if the maid will run off without doing her work. It is clear that Sondos feel entitled to restrict her maid’s passport and movement even if she has the day off as if the maid is her property.
She is not alone. The Gulf is notorious for its abuse of workers. Workers are lured from extremely impoverished countries like Bangladesh and the Philippines with lies of good wages and living conditions in Gulf countries. They are usually tricked into slave-like conditions.
Recently in Qatar, more than 4,000 workers died in horrible work conditions. You can read this report in 2014 about the kafala system and how Qatar’s abuse of domestic workers is rampant.
The idea that Sondos views her maid as property versus as a human being is just part of the larger picture of the rampant racism in Gulf countries.
As Muslims, we should be better than this. Muhammad (peace be upon him) in his last sermon said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor a black has any superiority over a white- except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim, which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”
Muslims should be the first to treat workers well. The Messenger (peace be upon him) also said: “Pay the laborer his wages before his sweat dries.” How can we expect to be respected as an Ummah when we don’t even honor our Prophetic traditions? As a Muslim blogger, I condemn the racism and entitlement shared by Sondos Alqattan. I pray that she takes the time to visit countries like the Philippines so she can see the poverty that exists in the world. Perhaps that will give her some compassion and humanity.