Justice has a certain beauty all its own. It is worth preserving, and it is worth the power of the written word. Justice is not only confined to courts of law, but encompasses daily life, every minute of it. We must seek it, nourish it, and protect it.
I cannot recall when I first became aware of justice. But it intensified into a lifetime passion for me in 1956, when Britain, France and Israel all invaded Egypt. I was just 13 years old then, and outraged at the unfairness of three powerful countries ganging up on my beloved homeland. I started then to write a daily journal, cutting and pasting into it news photos, articles, and speeches all related to this aggression. My youthful effort at reportage did not make it into print, but I kept it as a cherished memento, a symbol of commitment. I wanted to be faithful to my first love of justice, but I did not quite know how.
Three years later, at age 16, I lost my father and experienced first- hand a very personal taste of social inequity. As the oldest son among six siblings, with my mother expecting yet another child, I had to manage our family’s financial affairs on my late father’s very meager pension. What had my hard-working family done wrong to be left with so little? I felt that we had become undeserved victims of social injustice. So I interrupted my plans as an aspiring writer to focus on the kind of education that would instead lead to a well-paying job.
I finished my undergraduate university education in 1965, at the top of my class in electrical engineering, and landed a promising position as an instructor at Cairo University — not much salary to start with, but a lot of prestige. Still, I wondered if I would ever be able to follow my dream of writing again. I desperately wanted to be an advocate, even an activist; to turn my passion for justice into a meaningful labour of love. But I could never find the time.
Then in 1967, Israel attacked and occupied the Sinai. It was a humiliating loss for Egypt and her people. I remember living one day at a time, obsessed with reading everything I could find in my quest to understand why Egypt lost that battle, what Israel really wanted, how Egyptians could liberate the Sinai. I wondered if Arabs would ever unite to throw off the injustices of war and imperialism; if not then, when? I read and read, with a voracious appetite for knowledge, but I did not write. The rest of my energy was focused on the goal of earning a doctoral degree.
The next year, 1968, I chose Canada as the country where I would pursue my Ph.D. research work; and it was all because of a remarkable man called Lester Bowles Pearson. Back in 1956, as a politically awakened 13-year-old, I first heard the name of this respected Canadian prime minister and Nobel laureate. I was inspired by his brilliant idea of forming an international "peace army" to work under the United Nations banner. And it turned out that Egypt was the first country in history to benefit from UN peace-keeping forces, stationed in the Sinai.
Meanwhile, I had been offered scholarships from the U.S., Britain and Canada, but there was no contest. Canada was the place for me, because it had given the world Lester Pearson. I have never regretted choosing Canada to continue my research and pursue my passion for writing about justice.
For my first two decades or so, beginning as a graduate student, then as a researcher and finally as a university professor, I satisfied my passion for reading and writing within the academic field where I have made my living. I read with passion, I researched with passion, I taught with passion and I wrote research papers, books, and monographs, all with passion and faithful commitment. But the subject at hand was microchip design — not justice.
Gradually, I felt an increasing call to return to that first love of my life. I was spiritually hungry to read, read, and read some more, about justice; to write, write, and then rewrite, about justice; to share my passion for it, my unwavering conviction that every human being on earth deserves to be part of it.
I felt compelled to write, to educate others about the inherent beauty of justice. I felt called to apply the experience of my academic discipline in re-engineering the minds of people to reject injustice, in all its numerous shapes and forms. I desired for people to appreciate justice as deeply as I did; to understand with every fibre of their being that there can be no genuine peace anywhere without it. And by this, I mean peace as in universal "peace of mind," and equally, as in "global peace."
Having reached the point where I could no longer accept a society in which the poor cannot find help, the hungry cannot find food, the unskilled cannot afford education, the oppressed cannot find support, the sick cannot afford treatment, the elderly cannot find care, the young cannot find love, the homeless cannot find shelter, and the lost cannot find their way — my inner voice told me I had to share those feelings with others by writing, and in persevering to have those writings published.
This fragile and wounded world is all we have; but if we act on the belief that true justice can prevail, I am hopeful that it can be saved and healed.
This article is an excerpt from the Preface of author’s forthcoming book "Passion for Justice."