Probably not a joke. The whole magic thing is taken pretty seriously over here. I've posted about it in the past [in my archives] and made it obvious that I find it all quite "hokey." Do not get it. Likely never will.
Housewives here are now calling on investigators to check out their maids before the maids leave to go back to their home countries. The reason? To make sure that the maids are not going to be "casting spells" and that they are not "involved in black magic." Seriously. You just can't make this stuff up. Shows you just how much trust the housewives put in their maids. Absolutely none. Nada. Zip. Zero. Yet, they've trusted the maids to clean their homes and raise their children and sleep with their husbands. So, now, as if the poor maids haven't had a hard enough time of it - being here, being "domestic workers" - before they can return to their own families they have to endure the humiliation of an investigation. [Look at it as just another of many benefits you receive working here if you are on one of the bottom rungs of the ladder.]
Interestingly enough, the "majority of investigators are non-Saudis" although there are some "Saudi graduates unable to find proper jobs" joining the profession. The investigations take place under the strategem having the investigator come to the home where the maid is employed to search through the maid's personal effects whilst being told that it is a "part of the repatriation process." Umm hmm. You just can't believe 'em, can you?! The wife is instructed to "play along with her" [the investigator]. All on the up and up, there. Typical. The investigator paws through the maid's things "in search of sponsors' photographs, hair or clothes that can be used for magic..." One of the most ridiculous things...
The article says to Google "'maid investigator' in Arabic" which will bring "up over 1,800 results of women looking for maid investigators." [Someone else go ahead and try it. Let me know what the results are.] Apparently there are forums for this where the untrusting housewives "exchange names and contact details... and warn each other about maids who do magic." Imagine the housework these housewives could get done if they were doing something even remotely useful.
Big business, here. This maid investigating thing. One woman - who, naturally, identifies herself only as "mother of Muhammad" [the name a gazillion women over here use] - has given up the profession "because her husband expressed concern that she might get attacked." Quite frankly, I'm amazed her husband let her do this at all. What kind of self-respecting husband lets his wife do something so clandestine and dangerous? Stop and think about the danger involved. What if one of these maids got a picture of "Um Muhammad" and a lock of her hair? Imagine the magic that could be worked on her. And don't forget to factor in the fact that not only is "Um Muhammad" investigating, but she has to take her own life in her hands each and ever time she gets in a vehicle with a MALE driver, and if that driver is an imported "domestic" worker as so many of them are, what is to say that he isn't working in cahoots with some of these suspect maids? I shudder. Um Muhammed goes into scant details about her work and manages to boast a little about how much in demand she was.
Here's the money quote, literally [and this, really, is what it all comes down to]: "Investigators also show particular concern in winning over new customers by exaggerating the threat of black magic and slashing fees." Charlatans. All of them. I knew there was something about this... Hey. You get what you pay for. And if these over-zealously suspecting housewives believe that they are about to have some magic spell placed upon them where they will become sick and their husband will leave them for a younger wife [oh, wait!] or something like that, then they deserve to be scammed out of the 400 or 500 riyals they are willing to pay. A better and much more kind use for that money would be to give the departing maid a bonus for her years of sweat and toil and abuse, but we all know that it is unlikely the maid will even get paid to begin with. A bonus? Unheard of.
Suad Afif, a sociologist and professor at King Abdulaziz University says that "Most Saudis, it seems, are more concerned with maids dabbling in black magic rather than stealing valuables." I call BS on that. We all know that the maids get blamed for everything that goes missing and that "stuf" is "status" here in the Sandbox and "status" is significant statement of ones stature in society. Mr. Afif says "that Islamic morals [???] prevent women from checking their maids' personal stuff and that they look for others to do this." See? What'd I say? That is what it all comes down to. Mr. Afif "also warned housewives about investigators who are more concerned with earning money than helping people." Yep. There is one born every minute, isn't there?!