PETALING JAYA • Maid agencies in Malaysia are stunned by a "new" directive from the Immigration Department barring Muslims from hiring non-Muslim domestic helpers.
Employers question the rationale behind the policy, which department officials say is not new, as they are worried that they may not get any maids at all.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association president Engku Ahmad Fauzi said the policy, which appears to have been in force since two weeks ago, would squeeze the supply of maids for Muslims.
"Religion should not be an obstacle. When you work in an office, you don't base it on religion and, likewise, this should not be the case for the maid in the home," he said on Sunday, urging the Immigration Department to explain the rationale of the policy.
A maid agency owner in Selangor who did not want to be named said she had recently applied to bring in non-Muslim maids for Muslim clients, but the request was rejected.
"(Immigration) officers said that the policy was a directive from the director-general," she said.
The officers reportedly said that the policy had always existed and if she still wanted to put in the application, they would reject it.
"If they did not allow Muslims to hire non-Muslims from the beginning, why did they allow it earlier?" she said.
"There was no circular to inform us about this," she added, noting that Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar hire non-Muslims.
Another maid agency owner based in Kuala Lumpur said the rule had always been in place but had not been enforced strictly.
The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) criticised the directive as discriminatory and potentially damaging to national integration and unity.
In a statement yesterday, MCA Religious Harmony Bureau chairman Ti Lian Ker said rules and regulations had to be weighed carefully and not be made "at the whim and fancy of those in power".
Rules that caused additional cost, hardship and inconvenience to the public should be avoided, especially if they were made on the basis of race or religion, he said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK