Sondos Alqattan Proves Racism Does Exist in Gulf Countries

Sondos Alqattan
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.

Racism in Islam

Basma K

Unfortunately, even gorgeous hijabis like Basma K have to endure racial slurs.

Racism. It is a charged word being used to describe events in Israel, unannounced FBI visits and the unjust surveillance of large swaths of the Muslim American population. While racism or discrimination against Muslims is a fairly new thing, it is not new to the African American community. It is almost institutionalized.

With the increased awareness around racism in America thanks to what is going on Ferguson, MO after the tragic shooting of Michael Brown, as an Ummah, we need to start looking inwardly at our own racial biases against others.

As much as Muslims would like to claim the diversity of our Ummah is an indicator of our tolerance, I know actually know there is an ugly underbelly of racism in Muslim communities. How many of us have heard our elders in the community speak derisively against other races? How many of us have seen supposedly religious members of our community shoot down a perfectly good proposal for their daughters simply because the man in question is an African American? How many times have we seen those same daughters married to men of the same ethnic background but with questionable morals? How many times have we seen aunties in the community laud a marriage between a daughter in the community and a white man? In fact, I recall one time attending a wedding where one aunty had the gall to tell me that the sister was lucky to have married a white man because it would ensure her kids would be fair skinned!

I kid you not. These situations have occurred. Even in our younger generation, racism still is a seed of destruction that germinates. It even happens to me when I am driving and I rail that a fellow driver’s poor skills is due to his/her ethnicity.

It is wrong. It needs to stop with us.

During the Prophet (saws) time, there was racism in pre Islamic Arabia. Blacks were sold and traded like property. There was misogyny. Women were also treated like property versus as individuals. It is wrong for us to assume that after Islam was introduced to this society, that racism was completely eradicated. It was not. There were instances of where racial discomfort could be felt. It was an active process to remove racism in the community.

For example, Barakah (Umm Ayman ra) was an Abyssinian slave that was considered a devout Muslim in high esteem of the Prophet (saws). When the Prophet (saws) said to his companions: “Should one of you desire to marry a woman from the people of Paradise, let him marry Umm Ayman.” None of the companions stirred except Zayd ibn Haritha (ra). They were all hesitant to marry an older black woman. It was not easy, but the Prophet (saws) tried to devote his life to fulfilling the beauty of Islam which included eradicating social constructs of class and race.

Even till the very end the Prophet (saws) was telling his followers to leave the ugliness of racism behind. “O people! Remember that your Lord is One. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non-Arab have superiority over an Arab; also a black has no superiority over white, nor a white has any superiority over a black, except by piety and good action. Indeed the best of you is the one with the best character.”

How can Muslims rail against Islamophobia when we can’t even support our fellow brothers and sisters in need? We need to help others if we want them to help us.