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Fourth response.

In responding to Dr. Patel's inquiry, I decided to focus on two issues: language and power. For me, coming from an Islamic position, I have to ask for some clarification of the terms. Language definition and use is an all important issue in both the conveyance of ideas and the furthering of agendas.

In Arabic, for every aspect of justice, there are several words. But the most common in usage is 'adl often used in contextualization with its antonym, jahr. The word 'adl derives from the verb adala which means to straighten, to amend, to modify, or to equalize. Jahr, in contrast, includes wrongdoing, tyranny, inclination and deviation. Both terms, obviously include moral and religious values. The literal meaning of 'adl therefore, is a combination of moral and religious values (which stand against the inclination to do otherwise) denoting fairness, balance, temperance and straight forwardness. There is not the relativity implied in the English usage of the word, justice. In the Qur'an itself, there are over two hundred admonitions against injustice and no less than one hundred expressions embodying the notion of justice. These exhortations of justice are not predicated on people, place, or anything but just resolutions.

No group can increase the peace when the term itself is undefined. What is peace? For many of those in power, peace is the silence of the oppressed. For some of the oppressed, peace is the absence of physical and mental torture. For others of the oppressed, peace is the absence of the other whose presence brings turmoil. If peace is defined as the cessation of violence, then the target audience should be those in possession of weapons of mass destruction who deploy stereotypical language to undermine those they seek to oppress. It seems as if the impetus here is wrongly placed. Those who are the objects of injustice, know it, feel it and taste it. Why are we explaining to them what they already know intimately?

An organization cannot assume that it is superior (in the realm of moral and social values) enough to alleviate suffering without confronting those that cause the suffering. But again, what kind of suffering? Is suffering an adequate term to describe the lack of material well-being in the land of conspicuous consumption where what satisfies an individual is well beyond the necessities? When any organization seeks to bring together diverse peoples without making the agenda of the organization transparent and acknowledging the imbalance of power among communities, problems will certainly arise. The language of "targeting" communities implies a power construct that feeds the conscience of those already in power. One group is predatory and the oppressed must exist because if they did not or their suffering alleviated then this group would have no agenda.

If the social issues affect all, such as unemployment or neighborhood decay, then a range of groups might be interested in being part of the organization that engages the issues. The definition of the public interest will emerge from the process of sharing outlooks. Inclusiveness is then self-determined, not imposed.

Regarding the involvement of immigrants and African Americans, the problems of immigrants, though surely important ones, do not outweigh the problems of established Americans. African American and Latino communities with myriad vital concerns ranging from health care to employment to homelessness to survival cannot be rallied around the foreign policy issues of immigrants. My question would be, who does this focus serve? And if it does not serve established Americans, how can they be asked to participate in it?

Justice is not created for one group by another. Equality is not created by some for others. Equality in the West implies that the inherently superior are bound to be somewhat benevolent to the inherently inferior that make the lives of the superior possible. The pursuit and actualization of true justice and equality would erase the dividing line and the reason for these organizations. So what is the real agenda?

In Islam, all humans are born with God-given gifts, and those gifts fit into a large quilt. The use of all the gifts in an environment of complementarity is the correct pursuit for achieving the good.
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Author:McCloud, Aminah Beverly
Publication:Cross Currents
Date:Mar 22, 2005
Previous Article:Third response: encouragement from one generation to the next.
Next Article:Fifth response.

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