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Understanding Protests
Publication date: 2003-03-28

Protests - What are They, and When are They Justified?

Definition of Protest:

Protest is a strong request, addressed to a source of power by the powerless who depend on that source of power, to take action or to stop action, and which is delivered in such a way as to compel the source of power to take the action requested by causing a nuisance or embarrassment.

A baby is powerless, and totally depends for its comfort and survival on his mother, who is his source of power. A baby cannot even express itself, it just cries loudly, calling on its mother to take some action. The tone and pitch of voice of a baby are such that it is difficult to ignore its cry. It is up to the mother to determine what actions need to be taken — to feed it, to cover it up, etc. This mechanism of interaction between a baby and its mother is created by Nature itself.

Thus, protest is a very primitive form of self‐defence given to Man by Nature. It is given to those, who have no power to defend themselves by their own actions and have to rely on others for their comforts and protection. Once a baby grows up and develops its own strength and ability, it becomes independent of its mother and becomes a source of power in its own right — it can take care of itself by positive assertive action, rather than protest.

People live in groups and these groups have governments on whom the members of a group depend for their protection. Leadership or government of groups is also a creation of Nature itself. It exists not only among humans, but also among animals, birds and insects. The Qur'an compares such natural animal groups to human nations (7:38).

Protests are a limited form of violence. They work by creating a nuisance or embarrassment to those at whom they are aimed. They succeed, because those at whom they are aimed want to stop the nuisance, but only in those cases where those to whom they are addressed see themselves as responsible for the well‐being and safety of the protestors. Because, if they do not, then being stronger then the protestors, they can stop the protest by brutal force or even kill the protestors, and thus get rid of the nuisance or embarrassment1.

If the source of power is intelligent enough, it might see protests as a useful alarm signal helping it to put things right, rather than as a nuisance. Like a whistling kettle, which draws attention to the fact that it has boiled and should be taken off the fire.

Unfortunately today few sources of power are that intelligent, they are vain and arrogant and see protests as a nuisance and source of embarrassment. They either suppress or ignore protests and only yield to them when the protests become so loud as impossible to suppress or ignore — that is “politically inconvenient”.

If the governments were honest, just, competent and effective, then protests, terrorism and wars would have been unnecessary and unjustified.

But, because the present day governments are political, and use their powers not to govern the world by truth, honesty and justice, but to advance their own aims by violence and deception, protests, terrorism2 and wars remain the ultimate means of self‐defence available to those who find themselves victims of injustice at the hands of governments and all other means of redressing injustice have failed.

Protests, terrorism and wars can be justified only in those cases, where there are no peaceful ways of achieving justice. If misused, they become an injustice in themselves. So, before one resorts to any form of violence, one should make sure (1) that one's cause is just and (2) that there are no lawful, peaceful means of achieving justice.

Thus, if in some country there exist courts of law, and a government has committed some unjust act or failed to perform its duty, then one should use the court system to achieve justice. And even this should be done only after one has requested the government to do what is needed, and the government have either refused to do it without valid reason, or has failed to respond within a reasonable time specified in the request3. Only once it is established that there are no effective legal means to achieve justice, should one resort to any form of violence, even of the most limited kind4.

Resorting to violence without having shown that all the legal means have been exhausted, gives the opposite side a moral advantage. They can put themselves in a position of defenders of law and order, or of “defending themselves5”.

Often people resort to violence when faced with injustice not because there are no other means available, but because they fail to control their emotions or do not know how deal with governments. The result of this is that they are subjected to still more injustice.

Like all human actions (wars, terrorism, etc) protests in themselves are neither right nor wrong. Their rightness or wrongness depends on the aims of the protestors, and, if their aims are just, on whether their aims can be achieved by less violent means. One should also consider whether a protest is capable of achieving its aims.

Because present day governments tend to ignore protests, to be effective protests need to be continuous and growing in strength until they achieve positive results.

The present protests against the Iraq war have a just aim, because this war is wrong.

They are also capable of achieving results, if their strength is such that the governments are forced to take some action.

The fact that the invading forces in Iraq are taking more care not to cause civilian casualties than they did in Afghanistan is due to protests, not the good will of the politicians. Were it not for the protests, the invading forces would have gone on a rampage straight away, as they did in Afghanistan.

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1) While a natural mother has natural instincts and emotions which compel her to respond positively to her baby's protests, those who do not have such natural compulsive mechanisms, might respond to a baby's cry in a different way. Thus, in one case in Britain, an unmarried mother left her baby with her boyfriend, who was not the baby's father. When the baby began to cry, the boyfriend was so annoyed at the baby, that he put it into the drum of a tumble‐drier and switched it on. When the mother came back home she found the baby being tumbled inside the tumble drier. It was taken to a hospital in a critical condition.

Such mistreatment of babies by adults who are not their natural parents are very common in Britain and America due to the breakdown of the natural family.

In another recent case a couple who were given charge of a little girl found that looking after her was a nuisance. They put the girl into a plastic refuse bag, tied it around her neck, and put her in the bath tub in their bathroom. Whenever she cried, they would beat her brutally to stop her crying. In the end, the neighbours, who heard the cries, called the police. When the police arrived, they found the girl's dead body bruised, scarred and burnt with cigarette stubs in the bath tub in a plastic bag full of her own urine and faeces. There was a big inquiry into the case, but such cases are common and will continue to be, due to the break down of morality.

Today's politicians are corrupting the society by destroying the traditional family values and promoting homosexuality. 75% of British Members of Parliament believe that homosexuality should be promoted at schools at the taxpayers' expense.

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2) Terrorism is a violent form of protest, it is not a positive assertive action. It is aimed at forcing a government to take action, rather then changing the situation directly. A war is a positive assertive action seeking to change the situation to the advantage of the warring party.

The Palestinian Intifada began as a protest, but having failed to achieve results, turned into a terrorist campaign. Because the Palestinians do not have sufficient military might to impose their demands on the Israelis, they depend on a positive action being taken either by the Israeli themselves, or by an external force. But, as neither the Israelis, nor any external force, are willing to resolve the dispute on the basis of justice, the violent protest continues.

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3) Such requests should be made in writing with proof of delivery. Politicians can never be trusted.

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4) Protests can never be justified in relationships between private individuals or groups, because they are equal under the law, and any disputes between them should be resolved in courts of law. This is why industrial strikes as a means of imposing or altering a contractual agreement are never justified. By contrast, a general strike aimed at the government of a country can be a justifiable means of protest against a government's policy.

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5) We have seen this clearly in the 9/11 case. Also failure by the Palestinians to clearly state their case, has allowed the Israelis to present themselves as a respectable government fighting against “terror”.

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