MUSLIM INTELLECTUALS OR HOUSEMAIDS? The Saudi Perceptions of the Indonesian Domestic Workers

Yon Machmudi


Indonesia is certainly the world's largest Muslim country. Its big population however is not capable of offering a big contribution for the world. Indonesia was a major player on the world stage politically and intellectually. But that role has disappeared with the disappearance of Indonesia’s most vibrant minds. This paper tries to exploit the rise and the fall of Indonesian role on the international stage particularly by looking at the presence of the Indonesian workers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and how the Saudis perceive these workers. The paper argues that there is an observable development in the way Indonesia and its people have been perceived in this particular part of the world. In the past, they were respected as intellectuals while at the present they are humiliated as domestic workers. This paper analyzes this setback in the Indonesian role and with it the changing perceptions of the Saudis in particular and the Arabs in general concerning Indonesians in the Middle East. At the end, the paper is concerned with showing how that low perception affects the relation between Indonesia and the Arab countries.


Indonesian scholars; housemaids; diplomacy; Arab Saudi

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DOI: 10.15642/JIIS.2011.5.2.225-246


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