Who would have thought that religion would take on yet another twist so it can be used to divide Malaysians further? Incredibly enough, this time there’s an international dimension to the twist.
On August 15, the Immigration Department shocked many households and maid agencies when it announced what it called a “new ruling” stipulating that only Muslim maids may work for Muslim families.
Potential employers and maid agencies found themselves in a quandary. When one employee of a maid agency made inquiries at an immigration office counter, she was told that the directive had come from the Director-General of Immigration himself, Mustafar Ali.
She was told that her application for non-Muslim maids for Muslim families would be rejected. The officer who spoke to her claimed that the policy had been in place for some time. She couldn’t believe it. She said maid agencies had not received any circular to inform them of such a ruling.
There have been many complaints about this ruling.
One working woman said she had no issues about a non-Muslim domestic working in her house as long as the person was dependable and efficient. She said, “I treat her well and she is worth her weight in gold. I have no issues with her. There is a church down the road, and she is free to attend Sunday service if she wishes.
“I wouldn’t know what we would do without her services.
“Most working mothers would be appalled when they learn that this ruling will further restrict the supply of maids for Muslim families.”
An Indonesian maid who is Christian also expressed surprise at the ruling. She worked for a Muslim family in Saudi Arabia for many years and came to work in Malaysia only because her disabled mother was getting frail and she did not like being too far away from home.
She said, “If it was alright for me to work for Muslim families in Saudi Arabia, why is it not alright for me to work for a Muslim family in Malaysia?”
The Perak Mufti, Harussani Zakaria, claimed that Muslim children under the care of non-Muslim maids could be religiously influenced by them. The allegation has been dismissed by many Malays who say they were brought up by non-Muslim maids and they remain unshaken in their Islamic beliefs.
After the issue had become a matter of debate in the media, Mustafar tried to cool public anger by saying the “ruling” was only a “guideline”.
Haven’t we heard this “guideline” retreat before?
Remember when Jakim tried to impose various conditions for performances by foreign artistes? Public anger forced it into a humiliating climb-down. It had to say that the “conditions” were in fact merely “guidelines”. Perhaps that sounded better than saying it was making a U-turn.
Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.
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