Monday, June 9, 2008

INJUSTICE ANYWHERE IS A THREAT TO JUSTICE EVERYWHERE

By: MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
ISLAMABAD
mahtabbashir@gmail.com

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” is a credo penned down in his letter from Birmingham Jail, on 16th of April, 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King, a U.S black civil rights leader and clergyman (1929-1968). No matter how civilized this modern world manifests itself, ironically enhancing racism on all parts of this planet .The prejudice, discrimination, bigotry and chauvinism on color of skin engender more envious feelings amongst the masses today then the past epoch. Thus the legacy and timeless message of freedom and justice by Martin Luther, Jr. that became an eloquent anthem of the civil rights movements half a century ago, still not faded.

The theory of justice is one of the most elementary concepts in the moral life. Kids appeal to it “it’s not fair that he gets two pieces of cake” just as critics of multinational corporations make use of it “Paying workers twenty cents an hour is unjust!”. This raises two distinct questions. The first concerns precisely what we mean by justice, and here philosophers and social scientists economists can cooperate in articulating the precise meaning of justice. The second concern the implementation of justice, how we make the world a just place to live. This is an issue that concerns everyone: politicians, religious leaders, and everyday citizens the implementation of just social and economic and political structures is the foundation of a durable world peace.

Why was this man, caged in the Birmingham city jail? Dr. King was a national leader in the struggle to end the racial segregation laws of the American south. These laws restricted black Americans from lodging, voting, hotels, provisions, educational opportunities and participation in community life. Such laws were so deeply unshakeable that when Dr. King led a peaceful march in protest, local authorities resisted with might, arresting the leaders and dispersing the participants with fire hoses and police dogs. This reaction caused a change in public opinion, leading to the enactment of the landmark caused a change in public opinion, leading to the enactment of the landmark Civil rights act of 1964, the most sweeping legislation ever enacted to protect majority rights in the United States. This legislation helped change social and legal attitudes to bring the “American dream” of justice, equality, and freedom to all Americans, regardless of their race, religion, or ethnic background.

The objective is just as current now as it was in the dark days in which it was written, and it remains a precious dream to many people suffering from the discrimination or repressive regimes. Dr. King was frequently criticized for interfering in the affairs of others. In 1967 alone, he traveled more than 780,000 miles to assist in political protests far from his home. His response, written in his famous letter was that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This principle is now widely recognized by countries and human rights organizations around the world.

If the concept of human rights is of relatively recent origin, just the opposite could be said about the concept of justice: it is a moral concept with a rich and long history, stretching back before the time of Plato and Aristotle and running as a constant threat from ancient thought to the twenty-first century. No one in the twentieth century has stated the importance Of justice more eloquently than John Rawls in the famous opening paragraphs of his 1971 classic, A Theory of Justice.

Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought. A theory however elegant and economical must be rejected or revised if it is untrue; likewise laws and institutions no matter how efficient and well-arranged must be reformed or abolished if they are unjust. Each society as a whole cannot override. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. If does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many. Therefore in a just society the liberties of equal citizenship are taken as settled; the rights secured by justice are not subject to political bargaining or to the calculus of social interests. The only thing that permits us to acquiesce in an erroneous theory is the lack of better one; analogously, an injustice is tolerable only when it is necessary to avoid an even greater injustice. Being first virtues of human activities, truth and justice are uncompromising.

But what, exactly, is justice? This is a long-debated question by philosophers and jurists and political leaders, and our consideration of justice will begin with a brief consideration of one of the earliest philosophical texts about justice: Plato’s Republic. After that we will look at one of the most recent theories of justice, but one that is extraordinarily powerful: John Rawls’ account in A Theory of Justice (1972).Then we will turn to a consideration of types of justice, especially distributive justice and conclude with a discussion of just war theory.

Plato’s Republic is one of the classics of Western philosophy, and it constitutes a long meditation on the nature of justice. Indeed, after Plato’s death The Republic was often referred to by its secondary title, “on justice”. Over the course of its ten books, it describes the ideal state, and that itself is the embodiment of justice. For Plato, justice is an unavoidable social and political concept, so a meditation on the nature of justice naturally becomes a meditation on the ideal society and State.

In volume one of The Republic, we see Plato surveys several different and conflicting conceptions of justice. It is helpful to look at these, because they provide a set of models for everyday conceptions of justice in our own times. It would be simple if Socrates then went on to tell us what justice really is, but this is not the way Socrates (and Plato) taught. Rather, we have to look at the entirety of The Republic to see what Plato really meant by justice and even that is the source of much disagreement among scholars. Here I will offer simply one view of what Plato may have meant by Justice.

Justice in The Republic is harmony, both internal and external. Internal harmony is a proper balance in the soul, and external harmony manifests itself in the state. The virtuous individual possesses inner harmony, a balance among the faculties of the soul. In order to live a good life, the virtuous individual must live in a just society; the life of the just individual may not be happy one.

According to Nagel, Rawls was always deeply concerned about the “injustices associated with race, class, religion and war.” Slavery was the model of injustice for Rawls, and a good moral theory would not only condemn slavery, but would do so for the right reasons. He was an infantryman in World War II and was familiar with the horrors of war. And horrors perpetrated by friends as well as foes. And he was deeply aware of how lucky he had been in many ways, not the least of which was not to have fallen in combat. He was acutely aware of the extent to which that luck was not deserved, it was simply luck. Throughout the work, Rawls remains highly sensitive to this issue of luck, and his goal is to create a society in which luck plays a minimal role in the rules that govern that society. Out of this comes Rawls’ deep egalitarianism, his desire to see everyone treated as fairly as possible. The Theory of Justice provides an account of what is involved in such fair treatment.

Imagine you are put in the following situation. You are one of a group of people who have been assigned the task of devising the basic rules that will govern society and the interactions of individuals in society. Your job is to work with the other people in the group to devise this set of principles. Furthermore, you are representing someone else in doing this, as are all the other delegates. You are to act rationally, and all of you are to act in the best interests of the people you represent. There is just one catch: you are behind what Rawls calls the “veil of ignorance”.

Inequalities abound in life. Some people are rich, some poor. Some are musically gifted, others are tone deaf. Some have photographic memories; others must work very hard to remember even a small portion of what they read. Some are held hostage by terrorists, others move about freely. Some people are physically attractive to many others, some are not. Some people come from homes in which they have every advantage, while others come from homes characterized by neglect and abuse. Some children are born into families of affluence in wealthy countries like United States, while other children are born into conditions of starvation in Bangladesh and often do not survive to reach adulthood. Some people are genetically predisposed towards good health, while others suffer early attacks of cancer and other disorders despite living cautious lives.

Clearly we respond to some of these inequalities differently than others, and a theory of distributive justice is intended to help us distinguish among different kinds of inequalities, such as musical ability or physical attractiveness, which do not call for any special response from us. Other types of inequalities, however, may place some moral demands on us.

Consider the response to the families of victims of September 11th attacks in the United States. A fund was established to compensate families of victims, and it soon raised fundamental issues about compensatory justice. Should each family, whether rich or not, be given the same amount of money for each family member perished in the attacks? Should families who lost family members, who were the principal earners of income, be compensated more than those families who lost non-working members of the family? (This is sometimes done in law suits for damages due to wrongful death.) Even more fundamentally, should these families be compensated when, for example, a family that had lost its breadwinner the day before in a mugging receives no compensation? What makes some families more deserving than others when they have had an equal loss? Although retributive justice has occupied central stage in the Anglo-American legal system, it is not the only conception of justice possible. Indeed, critics of retributivism often point to its potential harshness, especially to those cases in which retributive punishment seems to do more harm than good.

A number of countries, just emerging from harsh and oppressive regimes, have struggled with the limits of retributive justice that serves as an important counterbalance to traditional retributivist theory. This was certainly true in a number of Latin American countries such as Chile, which emerged from a long period of cruel rule by Augusto Pinochet and his government. A similar situation existed in South Africa where decades of apartheid and oppression by the white minority government had resulted in countless injustices against black and mixed-race South Africans.

South Africa and several Latin American countries have explored a third possibility that lies somewhere between retribution and amnesia. The truth and justice commissions have been established in a number of countries whose aim is not to punish, but to set the record straight about what happened during the years of oppression. Thus these commissions aim at justice as reconciliation, but they are clear that reconciliation can not be found on lies. Thus the truth about those days must be established before reconciliation is possible. The considerations of justice have traditionally been situated within a community, whether this be a local community, a state, or a nation. This is, however, an increasing awareness of global justice, an awareness that may well characterized the twenty-five century.

The term “global justice” is vague. It may, on the one hand, refer to seeking just solutions to problems that are global in nature. On the other hand, it may refer to a global conception of justice, that is, a theory of justice that cuts across national and regional and cultural boundaries. These two senses of justice are related, with global problems serving as the driving force for the development of a global conception of justice. Here we shall examine several areas in which issues of global justice raised. Firstly, we will consider the issue of justice in war, which typically involves trans-national considerations of justice. Secondly, we will turn to a consideration of the environment as an example of a global problem that in turn gave rise to the field of environmental justice. Thirdly, we will then conclude with a discussion for the prospects for a global theory of justice.

By looking at the world’s history of the powerful nations, one may well ask that, is this just a common pattern of doing things wrong in order to set the things right or real ignorance on the part of the western world especially the US that claims to be the champion of promoting freedom and democracy in the world. True, September 11 has altered the whole system of the world – the aftermath effects – but the policies adopted by the world’s most powerful nation on the planet as a result of that event have not been able to grapple with the underlying causes.

For the past 150 years, the West has undertaken the task of modernizing the men. In the beginning the non-western nations had been put in close contact with the west, so that according to them, the “idle civilization” could be replaced with the “ideal civilization”. Initially, this so-called solemn cause had been put forward under the disguise of Modernism and now it has been replaced by pursuing freedom and promoting democracy. Today the policy of “negative peace” has been set forth just like the policy of “modernization for the sake of consumption” had been directed and put in place in the past.

In the past, the goal of the West was not by any mean to civilize the third-World but to modernize them so that their (the West) markets could be expanded and economic objectives could be achieved. The hubbub of the US and convulsion of its policy markers and elites is self-evident as the China rises in the 21st century.

It would be better for the US if it pursues the policy of positive peace which is the presence of justice and which can be achieved by letting the democracy takes it roots in its real term and promotes liberty and freedom not for the sake of security, but for endorsing justice in its real sense. Otherwise, this process of wondering whether Saudi Arabia is our friend or foe and whether Pakistan will ever be able to put a hold on religious extremism would hardly be able find an answer as Martin Luther King had once said that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

The best assurance for the consolidation of global peace lies in the economic development and prosperity of all regions and all peoples. Economic progress is one region supports and complements prosperity in the other. The process of globalization and trade liberalization had raised hopes, but has caused disappointment. Global trade regimes make the rich North richer, and the poor, South Poorer. This imbalance will further crush the developing countries under the increased burden of debt. The North, may I caution, can not remain unaffected and will eventually get sucked into this vortex. The developing world needs the understanding and cooperation of creditor states and international finances institutions to dig themselves out from under this huge mountain of debt.

The powerful people like George W. Bush and Gordon Brown are the most unjust people on the face of this planet these days. Why? They have the power to be unjust. Weak people are usually oppressed. Weak people do not even have the means of oppressing others, but a Muslim whether weak or strong is supposed to be fair and the guarantee for this is Taqwa, the piety, is the fear of Allah, the Almighty.

Now what does it mean to be just? How do I know whether I am just or not? There is no definition for it. There is a feeling inside me by our human nature by the instinct Allah created us on- “the Fitrah”. We know whether we are right or wrong, whether we have been fair or unfair, just or unjust and that’s why this is a concept, this is a term, that is not in need for further defining in the Qura’n. Because when Allah, the most glorious says, “Let not the dislikes of others make you swerve from being fair to them. Being fair or just is being close to piety,” that’s because we know within ourselves when we are fair and when we are not.

All religions, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, I am definitely sure every other religion expects its adherence to be fair to others. However, unfortunately, in justice, oppression is mostly justified in the name of one religion or the other. We Muslims do that too; don’t just think others do it. When we do not fear from Allah, The Most Glorious, we rationalize the wrong by attributing it to Allah.

We, the Muslims of today are the victim of injustices around the world. We are the victim of injustice in Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kashmir, all these issues have been the result of the political crisis created by injustice, created by the greed of leaders in America and in Europe. Here especially in Britain, who want to take as much of the resources of the world for themselves exclusively at the expenses of everybody else. And therefore it is an act of justice to stand up in support of the causes of those who are oppressed on the earth. If we know that a country is fighting for a just cause and if you do not speak in support of this, then we choose to be in the camp of the oppressors, in the camp of unjust people!

The governments of Britain and the United States have been trying to turn this war on terrorism into a war on Islam. All those alleged plots they are talking about, I do not believe any of them. And let this be recorded and let this be conveyed around the world! And I bet it will all turn out to be hoax in order to serve the interests of those who want to limit our liberties, those who want to take from us our God given rights to stand up and speak in support of all Muslim states of the world, the oppressed to be exact.

The value of justice in Islam is synonymous with the value of tawheed, Monotheism, and the evidence. I am not making it up, read the Qura’n, when Luqman the wise, said to his son, “Oh Son, do not assign partners with Allah for partners with Allah, Shirk that is, is a great injustice can you see.” If we fear from Almighty Allah, we should not fear from tyrants. We should not fear from oppressors. It is out of the sense of justice that we challenge them. We defy them, we say to them you are wrong and you will see time will tell.

Do you know who Hamza was? Hamza (RA) was the uncle of the Holy prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and one of the early martyrs in the history of Islam. A man who stood up in defiance before a tyrant, before an oppressor like George W. Bush, or like the Arab corrupt leaders or the Muslim leaders who are selling their own people to the Kuffaar. You must stand up for them and say, “stop this injustice, stop this oppression.” They may not tolerate you, they do not tolerate freedom of speech and you may get killed eventually. And that is the greatest act of martyrdom, telling the truth and dieing for what is true and what is just.

How do we qualify to what this actually is? If you are not telling the truth, if you are not fair, if you are not honest, if you are not decent, then you can not qualify as a witness and that is why our Ummah is signified, is characterized. Why its abilities to be witness by standing for what is true and for what is just. Don’t say we are in difficult times, I tell you we are in the best of times, but just lacking confidence. We do not have faith, trust and confidence in Allah, although ours is an Islamic Republic. We must develop faith in our own people, and in our Ummah. Don not be terrified, don not be intimidated just stand up and defend what is right and what is not.

You think American liberalism is good for humanity? Look what it is doing to humanity. Our Khilaafa established an order, where Muslims, Christians, Jews and people from any religion worked together and build a huge civilization. You look at what is happening to the Muslims in America, what is happening to the Muslims across Europe? Now they are chasing us and we even can not speak the truth. Now I certainly believe that reality is more potent then mythology. Osama Bin Ladin has become a myth and millions of guiltless people have been perished in reality.

I wish to wrap up this piece of writing with another thought-provoking saying of Dr. Martin Luther King, “Our scientific power has out-run our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Muhammad Mahtab Bashir is a freelance columnist and a member of an NGO, “Youth Parliament of Pakistan”.

MUHAMMAD MAHTAB BASHIR
House # 2026, Street # 32,
I-10/2, ISLAMABAD.
Cell: 0300 52 56 875
mahtabbashir@yahoo.com
Merrill from Unkown destination comments':
June 26, 2008 1:16 AM
Dr Taylor teaches us how to attain deep inner peace - easily, simply, without drugs, anytime we want it. Forgive me for doing everything I can to be sure everyone reads this book and sees this video, but I think all of us benefit and in the larger sense, if everyone reads this, our world will benefit in a very large way.

1 comment:

Merrill said...

Dr Taylor teaches us how to attain deep inner peace - easily, simply, without drugs, anytime we want it. Forgive me for doing everything I can to be sure everyone reads this book and sees this video, but I think all of us benefit and in the larger sense, if everyone reads this, our world will benefit in a very large way.