Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hong Kong: Indonesian Migrant Workers

My mother is an Islamic preacher. When I went to Hong Kong,  she was staying there for a month to teach Indonesian Migrant Workers (IMW - or the one we called TKW / BMI) who works as domestic helpers more about Islam. In order to do that, she had to spend most of her time here with them, socializing and listening to their problems and needs. Because I stayed with my mom there, I also spent quite a long time with them.

I saw a lot of immigrant workers everyday and hundreds of them on Sunday because they have a day off on that day. They are varied, from the one with long hijab to the lesbians. I'm not a homophobic yet I'm not fond of them either, especially because Hong Kong IMW's lesbianism mostly happen as a cause of lifestyle and prior experience, not because "they were born that way". So forgive me if I can't really put myself in their shoes and find it uncomfortable to see them doing public display of affection at the park. I do feel bad for them, though, and I personally think they need a professional help to heal their sadness and trauma without changing their sexual orientation.

Some of the IMW are pious and smart, though. They can even speak proper Bahasa, English, and Cantonese. You can have a chat with them and discuss about a lot of thing: politics, religion, education, et cetera.

Hong Kong IMW got a very high salary, compared to the Indonesian maids, of course. The minimum wage standard is about HKD 3800 (almost IDR 6 million), but they can get a lot more with more experience. That amount of money is not enough to survive in Hongkong if you have to pay for rent and food, but of course as a domestic helpers who live in their employers' home, they don't have to think about it. It sure is a hell of lot of money for Indonesians! After sending a little of money home, some of them spent the money by buying expensive clothes to make them look like a Hong Kongese, but the smart one save the money to do umrah or for their future plan. 

Things are not always pretty, of course. An IMW told us that everything depends on their employers. If she is lucky, they can be very supportive of her faith, but there were some cases when they restrict their domestic helpers to pray and eat halal food. But in Hong Kong, the government will protect them with the law, as well as a lot of NGO that provide shelter (as a place to stay when they have problems with their employers) and help. She said that Singapore law is the best one that can protect IMW, followed by Hong Kong. Getting physical and sexual abuse from their employer is very uncommon here. It's a shame though, knowing that people in Saudi Arabia treats IMW worse than people here in Hong Kong. It's a shame because Islam should also be seen in the way we behave, not only seen in our blood and they way we praise God. It's a shame that non-Muslim people living in a non-Muslim country behave in more Islamic way than the Muslims living in a Muslim country.

Getting to know the IMW is one of the highlight of my trip to Hong Kong. I got a chance to know them and listen to their stories from their own perspective. I also learned from their strength and their willingness to learn about Islam (because the one I interact with are the one who wants to - that's why my mother knows them). They have strong faith and not afraid to stand up for themselves if someone prohibit them to praise Allah and to practice Islam. They felt lost beforehand, until they realized that faith can definitely help if you are away and have no one to hold on to. With Allah and religious community around them, they found a new strength to survive.

That's what we should all be doing when we are in doubt and feeling lost: holding on to God and our beliefs.

Because even if we don't know what to do, He knows. He always does.

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