This new article from The Independent highlights two aspects of Middle Eastern religious culture: the fact that a form of indentured slavery exists there, and that Muslims who are criticized for this little-known fact will cry “Islamophobia” to excuse it. (Click on screenshot to read the article.)
As the International Labour Organization reports, there are “32 million international migrants in the Gulf region,” and of those about 600,000 of these are victims of forced labor—that is, slavery. A quote:
Migrant workers make up the majority of the population in Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (and more than 80 per cent of the population in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates); while in construction and domestic work in Gulf States, migrant workers make up over 95 per cent of the work force.
The system of labor contracts with foreigners in the Middle East is called the kafala system, and operates in the UAE, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Bahrain. As the preceding link documents, this is often akin to slavery, though with some wages (often not much at all). A worker is permitted into these countries only with a sponsor, who often takes away the employee’s passport, making them unable to leave freely. Sometimes they get no wages at all, but have to lie about that to finally leave the country. Working conditions are often horrible, with no days off and long hours. As Wikipedia notes:
About 1.2 million foreign workers in Qatar, mostly from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and the Philippines, make up 94 percent of the labor force. There are nearly five foreign workers for each Qatari citizen, mostly housemaids and low-skilled workers.
Most of the workers labor under near-feudal conditions that Human Rights Watch has likened to “forced labor“. Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation, stated “In late 2010 we conducted a risk assessment looking at basic fundamental labor rights. The Gulf region stood out like a red light. They were absolutely at the bottom end for rights for workers. They were fundamentally slave states. An exit visa system prevents workers from leaving the country without the sponsor’s permission. Employer consent is required to change jobs, leave the country, get a driver’s license, rent a home or open a checking account. Amnesty International witnessed workers signing false statements that they had received their wages in order to have their passports returned. The organization called for an overhaul of the ‘sponsorship’ system. Arab-American businessman Nasser Beydoun described their situation as: “Foreign workers in Qatar are modern-day slaves to their local employers. The local Qatari owns you.” International media attention increased after Qatar was named the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
The kafala or sponsorship system practised by GCC nations has been stated as the main reason for abuse of the rights of low-income migrant workers.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has frequently criticized the kafala system, yet it’s rarely mentioned—and perhaps not well known—among Western liberals who defend Middle Eastern countries, especially in comparison to Israel’s so-called “apartheid state.” But what is more apartheid than this latter-day form of slavery? Remember, MOST of the workers in many Middle Eastern states are under labor contracts, many of them unfair and exploitative.
Kuwait, which has 660,000 migrant workers, passed a liberalization law in 2015 that, according to HRW, “grants domestic workers the right to a weekly day off, 30 days of annual paid leave, a 12-hour working day with rest, and an end-of-service benefit of one month a year at the end of the contract, among other rights.” That means that many workers were, before that, working with no days off, no annual paid leave, and were working more than twelve hours a day,. These are inhumane conditions, especially considering the life of ease their employers have. But HRW notes that the new law doesn’t go far enough, leaving many workers vulnerable to exploitation.
That’s part I. In part II, a popular Kuwait beauty blogger, obviously living the life of Riley, kvetches about the law because it makes things too easy for migrants. As the Independent story reports:
The beauty blogger who sparked outrage after complaining about new laws giving migrant workers better rights has refused to apologise for her remarks, instead accusing her critics of attacking Islam, the hijab and Kuwait.
Sondos al-Qattan has attracted global condemnation since she posted a video to Instagram last week in which she expressed frustration at newly implemented changes to Kuwait’s kafala system, which now mean Filipino migrant workers can keep control of their own passports and have the right to four days off a month.
“How can you have a servant at home who gets to keep their passport with them? If they ran away and went back to their country, who’ll refund me?” Ms Qattan said in the now deleted post.
“I don’t want a Filipino maid anymore.”
Despite widespread criticism pointing out Ms Qattan’s woeful understanding of migrant labour abuse in the Gulf state, and the fact that several leading beauty brands, including Max Factor Arabia, have severed ties, the Kuwaiti social media star has repeatedly defended her remarks.
In a new video posted to her now private Twitter account on Thursday, Ms Qattan called the backlash to her comments a “foreign media campaign” designed to attack Islam, the hijab, Kuwait and the wider Gulf region.
“Of course I did not have to offer any apology, because I was telling the truth.
“Keeping a domestic worker’s passport is deemed an enslavement and racism [by these people]. Why judge me [over keeping] my worker’s passport, with the aim of ensuring my safety?
“These people express more outrage over my remarks than they have over humanitarian crises and massacres in Syria, Iraq and Gaza. Are these humanitarian values?”
Ms Qattan also called on her 2.3 million Instagram followers to boycott the brands that have dropped her sponsorship deals.
The Internet is forever. Here’s al-Qattan’s removed video complaining about the easing of Kuwaiti slavery (with English translations; there’s some repetition):
I don’t have the video in which al-Qattan accuses her critics of Islamophobia, but I assume the Independent has verified its existence. And it’s execrable. First we have a hijabi beauty blogger, who clearly makes a lot of dosh off her popularity despite the fact that the hijab is supposed to hide women’s beauty from men, which is a bizarre and somewhat hypocritical situation. Then the blogger complains about her servant getting one day a week off and being allowed to keep her (the servant’s) passport? It’s just a defense of slavery, and al-Qattan was rightly called out and lost sponsors.
Her responding cry of “Islamophobia,” of course, is a familiar defense against justified criticism of religiously-inspired malfeasance. We need to stop taking it seriously in cases like this, as there is simply no bigotry in criticizing slavery conducted by Muslim employers. Indeed, those employers are bigots, for they think of their employees/servants as a lower species of human, not entitled to minimal dignity or privileges.
The two words that Leftists hate to be called these days, and will cower in fear (and give in) rather than be called them, are “racist” and “Islamophobe”. It is this cowering that enables the Control-Left to wield such power. Fortunately, in al-Qattan’s case, nobody’s buying it.
Here’s one of her beauty videos, should you be so inclined: