By Kahar Zalmay
October 05, 2011
It does not matter how educated you are. If you are Asian, you are subjected to insult, arrogance and degradation at the hands of the Arabs.
“As long as the mind is enslaved, the body can never be free. Psychological freedom — a firm sense of self-esteem — is the most powerful weapon against the long night of physical slavery” — Martin Luther King.
On my flight back to Pakistan from the UAE, three chattering ladies seated behind me sounded very excited at going home to meet their families. They giggled and talked about small things ranging from shopping experiences to relationships with the in-laws. My attention was grabbed when their chat took a serious turn and they started talking about their insecurities and mistreatment in the UAE. “For two years, the fate of my husband was hanging in the balance. His Arab employer was not treating him well. He had communicated to my husband that his contract could be terminated anytime. My whole family was on edge and at times I wished the contract to be cancelled to get rid of the painful uncertainty,” said one of the ladies.
You hear such stories when you interact with Asian workers based in the UAE. You can see insecurity, paranoia and helplessness on their faces and you do feel that it is not the country that is shown in movies and on television. Freedom and social security is merely a perception and slavery is rampant. It does not matter how educated you are. If you are Asian, you are subjected to insult, arrogance and degradation at the hands of the Arabs. And if you dare protest or complain at the mistreatment, you are asking for trouble, big time. Once I visited an immigration office in Abu Dhabi with a friend. It took us two hours of travel but his work could not be done just because he complained about the delay to the senior officer (mudhir). The next day, the immigration officer arrogantly told my friend that his papers had been ready but that he had made the mistake of complaining to the mudhir.
The above is just a minor issue workers face in their daily lives. The Arabs have a history of keeping slaves and look to enslave more due to their love for imperialism. But we must accept that they have been very innovative in the modern age with regards to slavery. If you intend to start a business, you have to have a local as your partner. He serves as your arbab or kafeel (sponsor), without him having to spend a single dirham. He can oust you from the business any time for trivial reasons and get hold of your business, or he can simply have your residence visa cancelled. Contracts are a joke, as courts side with the locals and delay your case to the extent that you are left with no option but to either cede your business to the partner, or sell out in desperation due to the one month time limit on leaving the country after the visa has been cancelled. I wonder at how easily we criticise the West and the US for discrimination where you are afforded all your rights as a worker and a resident. Even for minor things you can go to court and be compensated. But Asian Muslims are strange creatures in view of their love for conspiracy theories and victimhood. When the West cares for them, they consider it their right, but when Arabs torture them with modern slavery, they do not protest. They are in love with paranoia and terror.
At an immigration office in Sharjah, the papers of a Bengali Muslim were torn to pieces and thrown in his face by the immigration officer just because he attended a call on his mobile phone while standing at the counter even though the officer himself kept talking on the phone. A little admonition would have worked but the officer had to show his power and put the rest in their place too. Nobody said a word and later I saw the poor Bengali sitting on the staircase outside and crying. I wanted to console him but did not know how. That was the demonstration of an Arab’s arrogance with impunity. Interestingly, if anyone tries to protest, others advise him not to as that could mean immediate visa cancellation and deportation. That is the reason Asian workers remain mute and exploited.
Having both international and Pakistani driving licences, when I applied for my driving license in Sharjah, I was told that my test date would come in six months time. When I tried to convince the Arab officer that I knew how to drive and that I also possessed an international licence, he arrogantly ignored me and signalled for me to leave.
A banker of Palestinian origin once asked me about my experience in the UAE. I told him that as a Pakistani I felt physically safe and was glad that there was no load shedding. He looked over his shoulder and said that had I had a western passport, I would have had an altogether different experience. I then asked him about his experience in the UAE. He said, “Well, Arab rulers do not tire of condemning Israel for grabbing our land but when it comes to our rights in their respective kingdoms, their approach changes dramatically. Israel gave citizenship to many Palestinians but the Arabs are very sensitive about the subject.” He told me that the Arab Spring may have helped people in a few countries, but that it surely brought more trouble for immigrants. Upon my inquiry, he said that the government had communicated to high ranking officials not to reproach local Arab employees as that might result in their rising up against the government like in other countries in the region.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came to uproot slavery, absentee landlordism and profiteering but all these are practiced now in the Arab world with certain innovations. Full credit should be given to the Arabs for being very smart and innovative in enslaving workers both physically and psychologically. It is the only art they have excelled at. The West could learn from them and stop complaining about issues related to immigrants.
Coming back to my fellow passengers’ conversation, as the plane was landing, one of the ladies excitedly said, “I pray a lot for Pakistan. There is load shedding, poverty, law and order situation and joblessness but still I call it home. Live 50 years in the UAE but you cannot call it home. You cannot feel secure socially.”
Source: The Daily Times, Lahore