Thursday, June 18, 2015

Ramadan: Be kind to our foreign brothers and sisters...

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful, 'Selawat' (blessings) and 'salam' (peace be upon) Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.


"And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. I do not want from them any provision, nor do I want them to feed Me." (Surah Adh-Dhariyat 51: 56-57)

I received this text message from a  reader (friend) - Dear LanH; I hope you will write about the plight of foreign workers in Malaysia including Indonesian domestic helpers. You too could write how we can be kind to our helpers.

Some people refer to them as maids or worse still as 'servants'. Very condescending. Indeed there are many cases of abuse; not long ago was about an employer using pliers to pull out teeth and nails of a-32 year old Indonesian helper. 

'Alhamdulillah' (All praise only to Allah The Almighty) we are now in the month of Syaaban and in a few weeks time we would enter the holy month of Ramadan. 'Insya-Allah' (God willing) we would start 'puasa' or 'siyam' (fasting) on Thursday, 18th June.

Thanks to the friend who had voice her concerned about our foreign Muslim brothers and sisters who had sacrificed a lot - leaving away their homelands and love ones to seek better life and opportunities in our beloved country.

They were here to share 'a miniature' of our 'wealth' - so have pity on them; live to what the Prophet (please be upon him, s.a.w.) had guided us, 'insya-Allah' we (the foreigners and us) would lead a 'barakah' (blessed) life in this world in the Hereafter.

Well, Ramadan is a time for us to do some 'muhasabah' (reflections) about ourselves. As a guideline in this article, I would 'the things' that I see and observed during the last Ramadan which involved foreign workers.

Ramadan is taken from the word 'ramad' which means that which is intensely or vehemently heated by the sun.  And the word 'ramdhaa' means the intense heat of the sun. Ramadan was named such because it burns the sins of the believers.

Many a time 'during Jumaat' while driving in the comfort of my air-conditioned car at 12:30 pm (going to the masjid) and 2.00 (going back), I saw foreign workers toiling on road dividers in the scorching hot sun attending to flower plots and along roadsides some were busy cutting grass. 

They were Muslims, the question is, why they were put to work when Muslims men should be in the masjid performing the 'Jumaah' prayers? And it was the month of Ramadan, could not they be allowed to have a 'little time' to perform their obligations?

Well, not all employers have that 'kejam' (cruel) attitude. Some were kind, at times I had given ride in my car to some Bangladeshi on the way to the masjid. They were thankful that their 'boss' gave them ample time to perform their 'Jummah'.

Then they were kind employers who set time for their workers for 'iftar' (breaking of the fast) followed by the 'maghrib' (dusk prayers). During last Ramadan, I got to know a few Bangladeshi breaking fast at Masjid Al-Azim, Melaka. 

Many of them work as manual workers at the Melaka Hospital nearby. For them 'the free spread of food' was a blessing, they were very thankful to Allah SWT and the people of Malaysia who were very kind to them.

Talking about abused Indonesian house helpers as suggested by a reader at the beginning of this article; a few years ago I too had encountered a young woman who went hiding inside a friend's clinic to seek refuge after running away from her employer's house.

She asked for help, but we could not do much because her passport and important documents were held by her 'boss'. Finally she was left into the custody of a few police officers, I do not know the end of 'her episode' but hopefully she was 'in their safe hands'.

Discussing about foreigners, during this time as we are about to welcome the holy month of Ramadan, my heart sank with the flight of tens of thousand Rohingya refugees stranded in some South East Asian countries including Malaysia.

Several months ago, the Myanmar (previously Burma) government has given the estimated one million Rohingya people in Rakhine, a coastal region of the country a final say...get out from 'our land'. 

The Rohingya, a long-persecuted Muslim minority, have no choice but to sail away in high seas, hoping and hoping that there were countries to see their plight even without 'opening up their arms for them'.

As Muslims all over the world were religiously welcoming the holy month of Ramadan, the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities such as the Kashmiris, the Uighurs and Moros were prosecuted and were 'boot' out of their homelands. The question is are Muslims concerned about the unfortunate fate of their brothers in Islam?

The deportation of the Rohingya people should put shame to regional organization such as Asean and globally the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and of course the United Nations (UN) which was seen 'all quiet' regarding the welfare of the Muslims.

It was estimated that nowadays there are tens thousand of the Rohingya people in Malaysia, yet this issue is not addressed accordingly by our leaders and at international fronts.The UN refugee agency says about 28,000 Rohingyas are registered as refugees in Malaysia, but groups representing them say the real number of Burma Muslim immigrants is much higher and has surged because of the violence. 

A few days ago, an international gathering at the Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway, about the plight of the Rohingya Muslims boasts a star-studded cast, with three Nobel Peace Prize laureates among those calling on the world to wake up to the unfolding tragedy but fellow winner and pro-democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi di not attend.

During her 15 years under house arrest, Suu Kyi won admiration across the globe for her fiery speeches and scathing criticism of the military regime that ruled Myanmar but critics note she is carefully choosing her battles, in part because she has presidential ambitions.

In a predominantly Buddhist country of 50 million people, where there is much animosity for the 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, Suu Kyi has opted to remain silent, even as the world watched in horror while more than 3,000 hungry, dehydrated Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants washed ashore in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand this month.

Suu Kyi (she was a daughter of Myanmar's late independence hero, Aung San, shares the "anti-Rohingya" sentiment of much of the population) did not care about the Rohingya, our brothers and sisters in Islam. That was her way; what about us? 

The question is, have we done our part in helping our brothers, the Rohingyas, especially during this Ramadan?  If superpowers and rich countries even the Muslims nations had pay little or no interest on the Rohingya issue, as individual Muslims have we a thought for our brothers' plight? We are helpless but at  least we could have 'du'a' (pray) to Allah SWT (The Greatest) for their safety in their homeland and abroad. 

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