NationalVOLUME 14 ISSUE # 23

Transforming the lens of exclusion

Inclusion is a global concept and basic human right to embrace everyone regardless of race, age, gender, disability, religious and cultural beliefs. The concept was taught by Islam as a complete way of life for the whole humanity many centuries ago by the last Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (PBUH). The foundations of the social system of Islam rest on the belief that all human beings are equal and constitute one single community.


The Prophet (PBUH) said: “No Arab has any superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab. Nor does a white man have any superiority over a black man, or a black man any superiority over a white man. You are all the children of Adam, and Adam was created from clay” (al-Bayhaqi and al-Bazzaz). In this way, Islam established equality for the entire human race and struck at the very root of all distinctions based on colour, race, language or nationality. According to Islam, God has given man the right of equality as a birthright. Therefore, no man should be discriminated against on the grounds of the colour of his skin, his place of birth, the race or the nation in which he was born.


After advocating this concept of equality of mankind, Islam adds that if there can be any real difference between man and man, it cannot be of race, colour or country but of their relationship with their Creator. The most honoured of people in the sight of God is the most righteous. On the basis of this fundamental tenet, Islam seeks to build principled society as against the racial, national and parochial societies existing in the world. The basis of cooperative effort among men in such a society is not one’s birth but a creed and a moral principle.


In Pakistan, we can have the true spirit of inclusion in society, by removing all barriers, discrimination and intolerance. When implemented, properly addressing all strata of society, it should make everyone feel included and supported, whichever environment they are in. Inclusion is achieved when everyone within a community feels like they belong, and can see themselves fit in and can see themselves reflected in all aspects of life. Inclusion matters and discourages exclusion from societal and economic targets of any civilized society. It is an everyday term that is familiar to most people. We feel included or excluded from family, neighborhood or community activities. Inclusion and exclusion have also been recognized as social issues all over the world, where the concepts have become a central feature of public policies. The conceptions of social and economic exclusion and inclusion have become the focus of attention, especially among nations, which are concerned about poverty and its negative effects on people. People, who are excluded, whether because of poverty, ill health, gender, race or lack of education, do not have the opportunity for complete participation in the economic and social benefits of society.


Inclusion can be a very effective instrument for the new governments examining legislation, policies, programmes and practices to determine whether they promote the social and economic inclusion of individuals, families and communities. It opens up minds to new ways of thinking and open doors to new solutions for old problems. Ultimately, it provides a new way to encourage change that will transform a society. The concept of inclusion is recommended from all global environments to add to the government systems by the policy makers, programme managers and community leaders, who work in the context of social and economic exclusion in both public and non-profit sectors. It is also a tool for activists in social movements, such as women and people with disabilities, and community developers working towards healthy, sustainable communities. It provides methodologies for analyzing the conditions of exclusion and solutions that promote inclusion and a way of beginning to plan for inclusion. It also suggests a process to begin dialogue with excluded groups, raise awareness about how exclusion works and identify steps to move towards policies, programmes and practices that will be inclusive.


Governments at all levels can use the strategies of inclusion to analyze legislation, policies and programmes to determine whether these exclude or include people, who are marginalized, disadvantaged, impoverished or discriminated against. Non-government organizations can use the methods of inclusion to find out if the policies, programmes and practices they use exclude or include people in vulnerable situations. Community groups can use the ideology for planning, development and social action to address the sources of exclusion in communities and in public policies, as well as pointing towards solutions that will be inclusive. Moreover, the ideology also covers the foundation of values, social justice diversity, respect for the rights of individuals to make choices to guide how the values arise from the work that has taken in any society on social and economic exclusion and inclusion. Also, the recognition of universal entitlement to rights and services as set out in human rights agreements, charters and legislations, building common interests and relationships as the basis for actions to achieve shared goals.


By using all the stated areas of inclusion, any government can draw more efficient policies and monitor their progress. Therefore, social and economic exclusion and inclusion can be seen along several dimensions: cultural, economic, functional, participatory, physical, political, structural and relational. There are many elements to exclusion and inclusion for each of these dimensions that should be considered in analyzing a policy, programme or practice. For example, elements of exclusion could be poverty, disadvantage, inequality, discrimination, barriers to access, disability, isolation or marginalization. Whereas elements of inclusion could be adequate income, reduced disparities, human rights, access, ability to participate, valued contribution and belonging empowerment. The same approaches can be practiced with any sector of the government and society for improvement.