PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Maid agencies in Malaysia are stunned by a "new" directive imposed by the Immigration Department barring them from hiring non-Muslim maids.
Employers have questioned the rationale behind the policy, which department officials said was not new, as they were worried that they may not get any maids at all.
Malaysian Maid Employers Association (MAMA) president Engku Ahmad Fauzi said the policy would limit 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 (Aug 14).
He called on the Immigration Department to enlighten people on the rationale of the policy.
A maid agency owner in Selangor who did not want to be named said she had applied for non-Muslim maids for Muslims who wanted them through the Foreign Workers Centralised Management System online but they were rejected.
"When I called, I was told to go to the counter to submit the application. But at the counter, the officers said that the policy was a directive from the director-general," she said.
The officers said the policy had always existed and if she still wanted to put in the application, they would reject it, she said.
"If they did not allow Muslims to hire non-Muslims from the beginning, why did they allow it earlier?
"There was no circular to inform us about this," she said, adding that the rejection had been ongoing for two weeks.
She said that if Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar could hire non-Muslims, why not Malaysia?
Another maid agency owner based in Kuala Lumpur said Malaysia had the policy all along, but some directors-general had allowed some flexibility depending on the situation.
"The policy narrows down the opportunity for Muslims to get maids," she said.
Faiz Abdullah, 42, a father of three who lives in Petaling Jaya said he had heard from his maid agency about the matter.
He said that he would need to renew his maid's permit this month and was worried that it would be rejected.
He said it was not easy to get a good and reliable maid these days and asked why it should be based on religion and race.
Business owner Zubir Rahman, 46, a father of three from Shah Alam said he was concerned about the policy because he preferred Filipino maids as they were more reliable.
He said he had three Indonesian maids before and two ran away but all four Filipino maids fulfilled their contracts.
"It would pose a problem for me because to get a good maid these days is very difficult," said Zubir, whose current maid's contract would expire in December.