Muslim domestic workers in India changing names out of fear | Islamophobia News


New Delhi, India – Munni Begum was 10 when her mom made her drop her final identify. At the moment, she didn’t perceive why. She typically accompanied her mom and grandmother as they juggled a number of cleansing, cooking and caregiving jobs within the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Nevertheless it was solely when Begum, now in her late 50s, began doing home work herself that she discovered that each one the ladies in her household needed to choose up Hindu-sounding names at their workplaces as a way to survive.

“They simply received’t rent us,” she informed Al Jazeera. “They hated us Muslims. A few of them stated it to our face that we’re dangerous individuals. So, Munni was a reputation that went nicely with each [Hindu and Muslim] communities.”

Begum recollects her widowed mom would go to work sporting a sari and bindi which can be historically related to the Hindu tradition. “And my sister used to work even on Eid al-Fitr to keep away from suspicion,” she stated.

Having labored for greater than 40 years as a home employee, Begum stated she confronted discrimination and insults at many Hindu and Jain households. She stated she was turned away at many properties due to her Muslim identification.

“I needed to increase my kids by myself, my husband didn’t help me in any respect. It was so troublesome,” she stated.

In all places I’m going, they ask me about my identification. I understand how to make meals however they received’t give me the cooking job as a result of I’m a Muslim.

by Shabana Raeel, Muslim home employee

The variety of home staff in India – the place Muslims make about 15 p.c of its 1.5 billion inhabitants – is unknown.

The Worldwide Labor Group, a United Nations company, says whereas official statistics place the quantity at 5 million, there may very well be anyplace between 20 million to 80 million home staff in India.

One other report says 9 out of 10 Muslim staff in India earn their livelihood within the casual economic system. The 2020 examine by the Initiative for What Works to Advance Girls and Women within the Financial system (IWWAGE) and the Institute of Social Research Belief (ISST) came upon that extra Muslim ladies are engaged within the casual sector than ladies from another faith in India.

India’s home staff generally face rampant caste-based discrimination and even violence. Employers typically prohibit staff’ entry to kitchens, washrooms, elevators, and even their locations of worship. There are separate utensils for the employees to eat with.

However Muslim staff face further marginalisation on account of their non secular identification, stated Anita Kapoor, activist and normal secretary on the Shehri Mahila Kamgar Union (City Home Employees’ Union) in New Delhi.

“Many staff have to cover their identify and identification as a way to get a job and keep away from [further] discrimination,” she informed Al Jazeera.

“And it’s not solely the employee who has to vary her identify but additionally her youngsters who typically accompany their moms to work, and their husbands who typically take up jobs like driving in the identical households. So their complete household has to undergo this battle.”

Begum’s daughter Shahana Parveen, additionally a home employee, recalled an incident from her childhood when she by accident used the normal Arabic greeting “Assalam-o-alaikum” (peace be upon you) at her aunt’s office.

“My aunt instantly reprimanded me and stated, ‘Shut up! Use Namaste!’ (a Hindu greeting). I believe I received them in bother that day,” the 35-year-old laughs.

Seema, beforehand often known as Shahana Parveen, outdoors her good friend’s house in New Delhi [Romita Saluja/Al Jazeera]

Parveen is married to a Hindu and altered her identify to Seema, a Hindu identify. “I modified it once I married a Hindu man,” she clarifies.

“Personally, I by no means confronted the issues my mom and aunts had. Even earlier than my marriage, I by no means needed to disguise my identification. [Fortunately] I’ve labored for a lot of good households – Hindus in addition to Muslims.”

For Shabana Raeel although, the scenario has not been this beneficial. The 28-year-old not too long ago needed to stop work due to the discrimination she confronted.

“In all places I’m going, they ask me about my identification. I understand how to make meals however they received’t give me the cooking job as a result of I’m a Muslim. Solely not too long ago, somebody informed me, ‘We don’t rent Muslims. They’re untouchables to us. And the Brahmins (the very best caste in Hinduism), they don’t even allow us to enter their properties.”

Muslim domestic workers
Shabana Raeel needed to stop being a home employee on account of religion-based discrimination [Romita Saluja/Al Jazeera]

Raeel is going through monetary difficulties and has hardly been in a position to maintain work after the coronavirus pandemic.

“At one of many jobs, my employer was excellent however her father-in-law used to struggle along with her over my hiring. He would inform me to not clear his room or cook dinner for him. He would taunt me over my meat-eating behavior. Someday, I lastly requested him, ‘Don’t Hindus eat meat?’”

A examine earlier this yr by Led By Basis, that goals to lift the illustration of India’s Muslim ladies within the workforce, says a Hindu lady within the casual sector is twice as prone to get a optimistic response than her equally certified Muslim counterpart. The report titled ‘Hiring Bias: Employment for Muslim ladies at entry-level roles’ notes that there’s a direct bias against Muslim women within the hiring course of.

“Of all my purchasers, just one has employed a Muslim home employee,” Shashi Chaudhary, who runs a placement company in New Delhi, informed Al Jazeera.

“So many Muslim ladies and boys name me for work. However what do I do? No person needs to rent them. I really feel so helpless. Typically I really feel like crying over their circumstances.”

So many Muslim ladies and boys name me for work. However what do I do? No person needs to rent them.

by Shashi Chaudhary, placement company proprietor in New Delhi

Parijat Pande, a resident of New Delhi, says he avoids hiring Muslim staff as a result of he doesn’t need them across the household’s place of worship.

“It’s concerning the sanctity of the place. Somebody from one other faith might not know the dos and don’ts that we comply with. In addition they don’t affiliate with [our] non secular beliefs and religion.”

A younger lady who requested anonymity stated she was compelled to rent staff from her personal neighborhood on account of parental stress. “I don’t have any desire however my mother and father and kinfolk typically have such views on working with individuals from a selected faith or neighborhood,” she informed Al Jazeera.

Bored with on a regular basis humiliation, Raeel stop her job. “I simply couldn’t do it. It felt so bizarre, so dangerous.” Her husband, who works as a driver, is the family’s sole earner now.

Activist Kapoor notes that many Muslim staff have, over time, began giving Hindu names to their kids in order that they don’t face comparable challenges.

“Both they’d give their youngsters a reputation that’s utilized in each the communities like Heena, or they’d give two names to their kids like Khushnuma and Khushi – one for the official paperwork and the opposite for on a regular basis use,” she informed Al Jazeera.

Typically, she says, the employers themselves change a employee’s identify. “A few of them give such ridiculous names to them it’s humiliating.”

Pandemic worsened hardships

All the employees say the pandemic has considerably added to their challenges. In the course of the lengthy lockdowns, home staff throughout the nation misplaced jobs, thereby falling right into a vicious debt cycle and struggling to place meals on the desk. With out robust labour legal guidelines and complete welfare programmes to supply them safety, many had been left depending on assist from nonprofits or a couple of benevolent employers.

Ruksana Sheikh, who has been a home employee for the final 20 years, says, “Two type employers gave me 1,000 rupees ($13) each month. That, along with some assist from [Kapoor and other workers’] unions helped us survive.”

Sometimes, she would work 4 jobs to earn about 10,000 rupees ($125) a month, however now she is doing solely two.

Nonetheless, she is most anxious about her kids’s schooling in the mean time. “Every little thing went on-line after the pandemic. I’ve three youngsters and only one telephone. How do I handle their lessons on one fundamental telephone? And by likelihood, if the web stops working or the restrict will get exhausted, the research go for a toss fully.”

Although most faculties in Delhi have now reopened, Sheikh says she continues to be discovering it exhausting to afford college and training bills.

Muslim domestic workers
Ruksana Sheikh has been struggling to make ends meet after the pandemic [Romita Saluja/Al Jazeera]

At work, Sheikh makes use of Pinky, a religion-agnostic identify, that her grandmother gave her even earlier than she was born. “Everybody calls me Pinky. However they’re additionally very nicely conscious of my Muslim identification. They’ve my identification paperwork in any case,” she informed Al Jazeera.

“I’ve by no means lied about or hidden my identification ever.”

Munni Begum says whereas it took her years to say her Muslim identification, she is eager for the youthful era. “See no matter you do, you’ll nonetheless be a servant to them,” she stated.

Madina Akhtar, her relative and a home employee herself, agrees. “Youthful ladies today are studying to talk up, though they’ve their very own units of challenges.”

Akhtar was compelled to work beneath a Hindu identify for years after shedding her husband. However not any extra, she says.

“I’m simply bored with hiding my identification. At one of many households, I as soon as wanted to make use of the lavatory. And so they despatched me out on the road in the course of the night time as a result of they received’t enable me to make use of theirs. So what’s the purpose in ‘being’ a Hindu in the event you can’t even use their lavatory?”

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