One would have to be egregiously undemocratic, unjust at heart or prejudiced towards minorities if one chooses to brand a society as just despite knowing that minorities in that society are being mistreated.
An equal treatment of minorities in a country reflects that the country is being governed on the democratic principles of equality, tolerance, justice and freedom for all.
It would be utterly inappropriate to describe a society as just if minority members of that society suffer inequality, discrimination and harassment let alone genocide, sexual assaults and bombings.
Anyone who knows the Ugandan government’s abysmal record of bullying its homosexual citizens would never describe the Ugandan society as just
Yoweri Museveni, Ugandan President has most recently signed an anti-gay law that prescribes life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality”
The freedom to practise a religion of one’s choice is ones fundamental right and yet millions of people around the world are denied this right. Countries like Pakistan, Iran, and Burma where minority people have restricted religious freedom can hardly be called just societies. As a result of the ongoing persecution of minorities in such societies some people have to suffer life-imprisonment while others have been killed at the hands of vigilantes.
A society that offers its minority citizens freedom to practise a religion of their choice but denies them other rights again would again fall short of being a just society. A just society is one which provides it minority citizens right to free speech, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
South Africa during the Apartheid period for example was far from being a just society because being black meant segregation, repression and living under constant fear.
I wouldn’t say that South Africa today has become a completely just society but I would credit South Africans for setting a precedent by giving equal rights to its black citizens under the leadership of the late Nelson Mandela. And South Africa today is indeed a much better society than it was in the dark days of apartheid.
Modern western countries such as U.S.A and Britain have come a long way in giving equal rights to its minority citizens and I would describe them as just societies as long as they continue to treat its citizens equally regardless of colour, creed or religion.
Barack Obama, an African -American, would never have been able to become a two-time President of the United States of America if the country’s treatment of its black minority citizens had remained as questionable as it was during the time when Martin Luther King junior and other civil rights activists were waging campaigns aimed at achieving racial equality in America.
The fact that people from Asian, African and other ethnic backgrounds are members of the House of Commons, House of Lords and European Parliament is testament to the fact that Britain has given equal rights to its minorities.
There have of course been isolated incidents involving mistreatment of minorities in world’s modern democracies such as U.SA and Britain and while I fully condemn such incidents it would be wrong to say that these societies as a whole are unjust.
The so-called propagandists and lobbyists of several countries where minorities suffer appalling treatment spend huge resources to try to convince their people that western countries also share their failure of not giving equal rights to its minority citizens. These
spokespersons would often pick on isolated cases of miscarriage of justice involving minority people.
Critics from countries with a shady record of treatment of its minorities should draw lessons from the western countries that treat all its citizens as equals instead of running a smear campaign against them.
Who on earth would call an Egyptian society under deposed Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi a just society knowing that upon coming to power Mr Morsi filled the upper House of Egyptian parliament with extremists .Coptic Christians, who make about 10 percent of Egyptian population suffered unprecedented levels of abuse at the hands of the operatives of Muslim brotherhood.
Imagine what would it be like for you if were a member of a minority group living in a country which did not believe in giving equal rights to its minority citizens.
Those societies which do not treat its minority citizens as equals do not have any right to call themselves as just and democratic.
Societies which discriminate individuals on the basis of race, religion, colour, faith can never achieve international recognition with respect to practising human rights.
Governments around the world should ensure that minorities are included in every sphere of life. The legislation aimed at promoting religious freedom, freedom of expression and integration should be the top priority of any government around the world which believes in justice, peace and equality.
All countries with a poor record of protecting rights of their minority citizens should take measures to protect their rights, lives and properties of its minority citizens if they would like to command the respect of the international community in regards to treatment of their minority citizens.
Finally, I would like to say that all governments who have earned notoriety in abusing their minority citizens should undertake to give its minority citizens an equal opportunity in all areas of life from providing food to education to housing to jobs to protection of their lives and properties.
Whether a society merits being called a just, tolerant, transparent and egalitarian depends on how it treats its minority citizens.
This argument paper was presented by Shahid Shahbaz Khan @shahidshabaz at International Young Scotland Programme 2014 at Gretna Green where 26 young delegates from 21 countries gathered to discuss and debate about the issues around the world. All the delegates were born outside the UK.