The concept of child workers or slaves is nothing new to Islamic countries such as Yemen, Egypt, and in parts of Africa. Some of these children have to work because of poor economic conditions, others are forced to work and many are beaten to work harder. They are basically treated no better than slaves.
Now American Muslims are once again bringing part of the Islamic culture here. As more and more cases of children being imported here to work are being reported. This is besides the uptick of Islamic "honor killings" that we have seen in America. Let me get right to the point, all cultures are not equal and some have no business being here at all.
Child maid trafficking spreads from Africa to US
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI
IRVINE, Calif. – Late at night, the neighbors saw a little girl at the kitchen sink of the house next door.
They watched through their window as the child rinsed plates under the open faucet. She wasn't much taller than the counter and the soapy water swallowed her slender arms. To put the dishes away, she climbed on a chair.
But she was not the daughter of the couple next door doing chores. She was their maid.
Shyima was 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple brought her from a poor village in northern Egypt to work in their California home. She awoke before dawn and often worked past midnight to iron their clothes, mop the marble floors and dust the family's crystal. She earned $45 a month working up to 20 hours a day. She had no breaks during the day and no days off.
The trafficking of children for domestic labor in the U.S. is an extension of an illegal but common practice in Africa. Families in remote villages send their daughters to work in cities for extra money and the opportunity to escape a dead-end life. Some girls work for free on the understanding that they will at least be better fed in the home of their employer.
She arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Aug. 3, 2000, according to court documents. The family brought her back to their spacious five-bedroom, two-story home, decorated in the style of a Tuscan villa with a fountain of two angels spouting water through a conch. She was told to sleep in the garage.
It had no windows and was neither heated nor air-conditioned. Soon after she arrived, the garage's only light bulb went out. The Ibrahims didn't replace it. From then on, Shyima lived in the dark.
She was told to call them Madame Amal and Hajj Nasser, terms of respect. They called her "shaghala," or servant. Their five children called her "stupid."
While the family slept, she ironed the school outfits of the Ibrahims' 5-year-old twin sons. She woke them, combed their hair, dressed them and made them breakfast. Then she ironed clothes and fixed breakfast for the three girls, including Heba, who at 10 was the same age as the family's servant.
Neither Ibrahim nor his wife worked, and they slept late. When they awoke, they yelled for her to make tea.
While they ate breakfast watching TV, she cleaned the palatial house. She vacuumed each bedroom, made the beds, dusted the shelves, wiped the windows, washed the dishes and did the laundry.
Her employers were not satisfied, she said. "Nothing was ever clean enough for her. She would come in and say, 'This is dirty,' or 'You didn't do this right,' or 'You ruined the food,'" said Shyima.
She started wetting her bed. Her sheets stank. So did her oversized T-shirt and the other hand-me-downs she wore.
While doing the family's laundry, she slipped her own clothes into the load. Madame slapped her. "She told me my clothes were dirtier than theirs. That I wasn't allowed to clean mine there," she said.
She washed her clothes in a bucket in the garage. She hung them to dry outside, next to the trash cans.
In 2006, a U.S. district court in Michigan sentenced a Cameroonian man to 17 years in prison for bringing a 14-year-old girl from his country to work as his unpaid maid.
That same year, a Moroccan couple was sentenced to home confinement for forcing their 12-year-old Moroccan niece to work grueling hours caring for their baby.
In Germantown, Md., a Nigerian couple used their daughter's passport to bring in a 14-year-old Nigerian girl as their maid. She worked for them for five years before escaping in 2001. In Germany, France, the Netherlands and England, African immigrants have been arrested for forcing children from their home countries to work as their servants.
For months Shyima lied to investigators, saying what the Ibrahims had told her to say.
She went without sleep for days at a stretch. She was put on four different types of medication. She moved from foster home to foster home. Her mood swings alarmed her guardians. In school for the first time, she struggled to learn to read.
Investigators arranged for her to speak to her parents. She told them she felt like a "nobody" working for the Ibrahims and wanted to come home. Her father yelled at her.
"They kept telling me that they're good people," Shyima recounted in a recent interview. "That it's my fault. That because of what I did my mom was going to have a heart attack."
Three years ago, she broke off contact with her family. Since then she has refused to speak Arabic. She can no longer communicate in her mother tongue.
During the 2006 trial, the Ibrahims described Shyima as part of their family. They included proof of a trip she took with the family to Disneyland. Shyima's lawyer pointed out that the 10-year-old wasn't allowed on the rides — she was there to carry the bags.
The couple's lawyers collected photographs of the home where Shyima grew up, including close-ups of the feces-stained squat toilet and of Shyima's sisters washing clothes in a bucket.
In her final plea, Madame Amal told the judge it would be unfair to separate her from her children. Enraged, Shyima, then 17, told the court she hadn't seen her family in years.
"Where was their loving when it came to me? Wasn't I a human being too? I felt like I was nothing when I was with them," she sobbed.
The couple pleaded guilty to all charges, including forced labor and slavery. They were ordered to pay $76,000, the amount Shyima would have earned at the minimum wage. The sentence: Three years in federal prison for Ibrahim, 22 months for his wife, and then deportation for both. Their lawyers declined to comment for this story.
"I don't think that there is any other term you could use than modern-day slavery," said Bob Schoch, the special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, in describing Shyima's situation.
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