IT’S 100 years this year since women in the UK were first granted suffrage following 15 years of struggle by Emmeline Pankhurst and her Women’s Social and Political Union. This included the tragic death of Emily Davison, who ran in front of the King’s horse during the Derby.

Granville Sharp, who died in 1813, was another hero who fought, along with Thomas Clarkson, to abolish slavery in Britain. Sharp also pioneered the struggle for better wages for labourers.

More recently Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid in South Africa and spent 27 years in prison in his struggle against the policy of segregation and discrimination by race.

Throughout history men and women have endeavoured to battle for their own freedom or that of others. There seems to be a never-ending struggle against tyranny and injustice.

Why do people need to fight for something which surely is their absolute right? Was there ever any doubt that every woman should have opportunities (wages or votes) equal to men? Or that one man should not enslave another? Or even that all people, irrespective of race or colour, are all equal?

Strangely enough, the answer is quite simple: those with power abuse those without it, and there never has been a time when this has not been the case.

Along with slavery, genocide, child labour, economic and sexual exploitation are all prevalent today as they have been throughout history.

Despite the successes of Pankhurst, Sharp, Mandela and a host of other pioneers of freedom there are still many wrongs that need to be put right. Women still suffer from a great deal of unfair treatment, and apartheid exists in many countries. Bonded labour – slavery by another name – is prevalent in many forms.

Profitability was one of the main reasons why it took so long to abolish slavery, because many a gentleman, from members of parliament to famous composers, had invested in the trade and were loathe to be separated from their money and the lifestyle that came with it.

A key theme that strings together the values decreed in the Quran is to fulfil one’s commitments. This means to discharge your obligations and duties not only to yourself and family but to the wider society. The reason for this is that if we sincerely fulfil our commitments then there would be no need for anyone to struggle for their rights. Fair and just treatment is a natural consequence when those in power discharge their duties and obligations.

The only difficulty, of course, is that it is not easy to implement as it requires some sacrifice – especially when we have an earnest desire to hold on to anything profitable that comes our way.

In this respect the Quran makes a clear distinction between profit and profiteering. Profiteering being the action of taking deliberate advantage of the weak and helpless.

To take unfair advantage of anyone in a vulnerable situation is like ripping out a soul. A good example would be “payday loans” targeting the poor and desperate. Perfectly legal trade today, but highly immoral, and clearly a case of those with power abusing those without it.

There was a time when slavery was legal, as was apartheid and genocide. Looking around the world tells us that these beasts are still slinking in the shadows. The current crisis of the Rohingya in Myanmar is taking place before our very eyes. The suffering of Rohingya men, women and children has been ongoing for some years now. Whole villages being burned and razed to the ground, women being raped, and people being shot while trying to escape.

Emmeline Pankhurst fought her battle and won. But it was a struggle that never should have been necessary if the politicians back then had fulfilled their duty.

This year, to mark the centenary of her success, we should remind our politicians to do their duty too.

Paigham Mustafa

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