Aidiladha in the age of Covid-19 unlike any before for Malaysia’s migrant workers

01-Aug-2020 Intellasia | Malay Mail | 6:02 AM Print This Post

The Aidiladha celebration usually sees Muslims worldwide performing the religious sacrifice of livestock to commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s faith in the Almighty where he was willing to sacrifice his own son, Prophet Ismail, in the name of Allah.

It is normally a day of joyous revelry among believers.

However, in Malaysia, this year many migrant workers are unable to celebrate Hari Raya Korban in the way that they usually do due to the economic downturn that is the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which in turn led to the movement control order (MCO) and border lockdown.

Oceans apart

For 41-year-old Indonesian migrant, Siti, this festive season is marred by the fact that her husband is unable to return to Kuala Lumpur from their village in East Java, since prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin ordered the country’s borders closed to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“He went home late last year to visit his relatives and our kids there. He was supposed to come back before Ramadan but because of Covid-19 and the MCO, he is now stuck there. I haven’t seen him for over six months.

“Our children miss him and because he isn’t working there either, our finances have been hit hard. Luckily, my (eldest) daughter has a factory job to help us make ends meet. But during the MCO, she couldn’t work too,” the mother of six told Malay Mail tearfully.

Siti earns roughly RM960 a month as a weekend cleaner. She is unable to work during the week as she has two small children aged four and two. During the weekends, her eldest daughter babysits her younger siblings while Siti tries to supplement the household income.

She also used to rent a room in her house in Kepong to another Indonesian couple, but after witnessing incidents of domestic violence, she was forced to ask them to leave as she feared for her own family’s safety especially without a husband to protect her.

During the MCO, Siti said that many members of her community were left hungry as the sundry shops in her housing area were cleaned out. Siti herself was unable to fulfill her weekend cleaning obligations as travelling was restricted.

“My family survived due to the kindness of one of my employers. The lady ordered food and baby formula for us through Mydin’s online service and had it delivered to our doorstep,” she said.

A father’s anguish

Meanwhile, Indonesian gardener Mulydi who has worked in Malaysia for 16 years added that times are hard due to the Covid-19 pandemic and he prays that things will get better soon.

The 58-year-old father of four is the sole breadwinner for his family. He said that even with his income of RM1,450 (which is considered high for a migrant worker), he finds it hard to make ends meet now because food prices have gone up.

“Our celebration this year will not be like that of previous years. I couldn’t even buy Hari Raya clothing for my children. Food is getting more expensive. I don’t really have enough for my wife to cook something special during Hari Raya.

“Last year, we had lontong, rendang and more. Friends and family could come and visit us. Now with this disease, we are fearful of celebrating and I just don’t have the money to celebrate. I pray that Allah will end this soon,” Mulydi said.

Mulydi’s two youngest children are schooling in Malaysia. Unfortunately, for this soft-spoken man, his two eldest sons who are of working age are unemployed and rely on him for money.

However, he added that they were not left jobless because of Covid-19 or the MCO, but because they took things for granted and lacked discipline.

“They got sacked. They were supposed to come in at eight in the morning and they would waltz in at 8.30am. Of course, their boss would be unhappy. As a father, I was very angry when they lost their jobs. Nowadays, they just loiter,” he complained.

Home and away

Likewise, two apartment building cleaners Azisah, 33, and Ahoi, 28, face a similar situation as Mulyidi where this Aidiladha celebration will be a lacklustre one compared to previous years.

Unless they have family here, Indonesian migrant workers who are single or with their spouse generally share a home with others where each person or couple takes one bedroom in their shared accommodation. This is considered a financially sound move as up to six people can split the rent.

“Imagine the family and friends of three couples or six different people congregating at your house. We have a lot of fun. And we pool our money (RM100 per person RM600 total) and everyone (in the house) chips in to cook.

“We can’t have that this year. We can’t even go to the mosque to pray. I feel a bit sad because my husband and I always go for Aidiladha prayers. At least, we can still have someone in our house to lead Aidiladha prayers,” said Azisah who is trying to make the best out of a bad situation.

For an Indonesian construction worker by the name of Bukhary, he said this year’s Aidiladha celebration would be the most sombre he has ever celebrated in his 36 years of life.

Apart from the many social restrictions put in place in the country, including limiting mosque congregations, Bukahry and many of his fellow countrymen find themselves without enough cash to send to their families in Indonesia as many have been left jobless.

“Being away from family is tough enough but knowing I don’t have enough money to send back home is even worse. I sent whatever I made when the MCO was partially lifted. Just that this year, the Aidiladha celebration will be even more modest than before.

“I don’t really care about myself here. Usually, I visit a friend’s house for a modest feast but this year, it is likely I will be celebrating only with my housemates instead of going visiting,” he said.

Bukhary said he could usually send about RM500 to RM700 to his family a month, but lately, he can barely muster RM300 for his family.

Missing the mosque

A Bangladeshi day worker, who wants to be known as Rahim, also lamented the fact that he could not visit the mosque this year for Hari Raya Aidiladha, stating that many in his community miss the sense of camaraderie of attending Friday prayers.

“Going to the mosque is our way of connecting with our peers. It is our day to meet and chat, and of course, conduct our duties in accordance with our faith.

“While we understand the restrictions put in place, if possible, many of us would like to attend Aidiladha prayers at the mosque,” said Rahim who stays with several Indonesian nationals in a bunkhouse in Petaling Jaya.

“This year, we will just cook a modest feast for our friends. Everyone is chipping in for groceries and meat, a must-have for Hari Raya Aidiladha.

“Of course, everyone is missing home but we’ll make do with what we have,” said Rahim.

Rahim’s countryman Mohamad, who is a grocery store operator, said he expects a very “quiet and sombre” celebration for the migrant community here for Hari Raya Aidiladha.

Usually, many will take the opportunity to visit friends, or for those who are fortunate, family.

However, Mohamad acknowledged that the freedom of doing so this year seems to be a luxury no one could afford.


Category: Malaysia

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