Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Civil Rights Struggles: An Example

This evening in Birmingham, Alabama, an award winning author was honored by a certain organization.

She (the author) was seated in the far left front row, a petite white haired eighty-year-old woman. Her claim to fame was a lone book published in 1960. The book touched on a very sensitive subject in the American South of the time. She was born and had grown up in a little known town in southwest Alabama of 7,000 people, named Monroeville. Her father was an attorney in that town immortalized by the fictional character of Atticus Finch and acted by Gregory Peck in the film "To Kill a Mockingbird".

Her name is Nelle Harper Lee, a recluse still living in Monroeville, Alabama who had never written a book before or after that one. The book, written by a white southern woman, did so much to the civil rights movement in the American south to the extent that 46 years later an organization in Alabama dedicated to equality and racial justice found it essential to honor that woman for what she had contributed to their cause.

Harper Lee never appears in public, never gives interviews or signs books, but she appeared for that special occasion simply because she was able to relate deeply to the organization's contributions to equality and justice. She went to the stage, received her award, and humbly thanked everyone, then sat down.

What is quite significant in this, is the organization that honored her. It is called "The Birmingham Pledge", located in Birmingham, Alabama, and made up of people of different races and backgrounds, and committed to the abolition of prejudice as well as the promotion racial harmony. It had received national attention, and even worldwide recognition for its work. It is noteworthy that this organization came out of the American south, an area that had been plagued with racial injustice and discrimination.

The pledge, which has been signed by over 109,000 people thus far states the following:

  • I believe that every person has worth as an individual.
  • I believe that every person is entitled to dignity and respect, regardless of race or color.
  • I believe that every thought and every act of racial prejudice is harmful; if it is my thought or act, then it is harmful to me as well as to others.
  • Therefore, from this day forward I will strive daily to eliminate racial prejudice from my thoughts and actions.
  • I will discourage racial prejudice by others at every opportunity.
  • I will treat all people with dignity and respect; and I will strive daily to honor this pledge, knowing that the world will be a better place because of my effort.
The learning points from this account are:

1) Out of darkness and out of an area that had been well known for intolerance and racial prejudice emerges the most righteous and vocal promoters of justice and equality.

2) Without the courage of those speaking out for equality, no progress could be accomplished, even though it only began with very few voices who were an alienated minority that spoke against injustice perpetuated by their own race and kin.

3) What happened in Alabama and Mississippi could be also repeated in the rest of the world where injustice is committed every day.

4) When comparing the racial struggle of the American south to that of the civil rights of the Baha'is in Egypt, one can only conclude that history is bound to repeat itself, and that the voices of reason, justice and tolerance will prevail and these brave and suffering souls will be able to acquire equality with every other Egyptian citizen.

The case of the Baha'is will be heard in the Egyptian Supreme Court on 16 September 2006, when the court will decide on the Government's appeal of the lower administrative court's ruling which granted the Baha'is in Egypt the right to obtain their ID Cards and to enter their religion, as required, on all official documents. For more details on this subject from a previous post, please click here.


  1. For a general overview of the Baha'i perspective on the human rights discourse see:

  2. Thank you for the link. The web page could be accessed HERE....


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