Pakistanis get infuriated when any act of discrimination takes place anywhere in the world. Our religion tells us that everyone is equal, and that is what we enjoy rubbing in the faces of the infidels who don’t agree with the teaching of Islam. Equality, something that human beings all over the world have to fight for, is already present within the teachings of Islam and what better place to implement these teachings than the land of the pure? However, this is where I can’t help but quote George Orwell from Animal Farm, “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Over the years, we have managed to distort the perception of ‘equality’ that we have in our minds. A kafir can never be equal to a momin. A Muslim who follows the ‘wrong’ version of Islam cannot be equal to one who practices the right version of Islam. Servants, obviously, are not equal to their masters. While the last sentence may come as a shock to people, atrocities being committed against domestic help in Muslim countries including Saudi Arabia and Pakistan cannot be ignored.  This is ironic since these are the people who boast that their religion is the only religion that gives servants and slaves ‘equal’ rights.

While the severity of the treatment isn’t as bad in Pakistan, as it is in Saudi Arabia, the discrimination that goes around in an average Pakistani household cannot be ignored. Servants are underpaid, overworked and exploited. Yet nobody intervenes. There is no check on whether they are being adequately paid for their services. Nobody ensures that these individuals aren’t exploited.

A very common norm practised within Pakistani households is the use of separate utensils by members of the domestic help. We simply cannot eat or drink in the same bowls, plates, and cups that our servants eat in.  They are to be fed in separate utensils, while sitting on the floor. How dare a servant sit on the same sofa as his master? A servant is always to sit on the floor. I find it repulsive that five-year-olds sit sticking their feet in the faces of old maids, who happen to be sitting on the floor. It is derogatory for a middle aged woman or man to be told that he or she may not sit at the same elevation that a toddler is sitting at. Yet these practises go unnoticed and, in many cases, are appreciated.

‘They need to know their place’ is the most common argument that I have come across. It is ironic that the houses of pseudo-intellectuals, who promote equality to appear enlightened individuals, are the ones where the maids’ children never go to the same schools as their own children.

We think we’ve done a great service to society by paying for a maid’s child to be educated in a government school; somewhere we would never even think of sending our own children. We feel like our role in society has been fulfilled if we give our servants a month’s worth of groceries in Ramzan. It is a shame that we fail to realize how little our contribution to society is.

I once cleaned a dirty patch on one of my classrooms’ walls once. The children stared at me in horror and questioned why I would do something that was the job of a member of the janitorial staff.  The idea that cleaning, picking up rubbish and doing domestic chores is the responsibility of maids has been hammered into young minds and what is instilled in the mind at a young age tends to stay there forever.

Another debate that arose recently was how people take their maids to restaurants and make them face the other side without any food being offered to them. It seems like that has changed now since last week, I saw a maid being made to face the wall but was provided with some food. Imagine the humiliation she must have felt, having to face the wall in a place crowded with people simply because the very people she cooks and cleans for felt uneasy sitting at the same table as her.

We have big egos, small hearts and close to zero empathy. With these attributes, when we go on and on about how our religion teaches us all sorts of noble things, it just creates a mockery of our religion. And we are to blame for that.