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Mohamed Elzarka

POL3062: Beyond Belief


Prof. Jenkins
November 9, 2014
Response Paper to Ambedkar and King
This weeks readings dealt with the topic of social justice. The first piece, taken from Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr.s book Stride Toward Freedom, describes the intellectual and
philosophical pilgrimage that Dr. King took to reach his eventual stance on nonviolent resistance.
Reading this piece was extremely rewarding because doing so provided insight into the mind of a
great man and a great leader. Dr. King has always held a certain aura of esteem in my eyes. From
the very earliest of days, I was reminded constantly of his amazing acts and the way that he
galvanized a nation to give equality to all of its people. While I held him in high regard and most
definitely appreciated the work that he did, I never really took the time to understand why Dr.
King was such a great leader and orator. After reading this chapter, not only do I want to look
more into the life of Dr. King, but I also understand that his courage, leadership, and oratorical
skill stem from his intellect and from his passion for the subjects that he preached. Dr. King
spent years of his life developing an understanding of sociology before he finally created his own
brand of nonviolent resistance that he used to empower the masses. In theme with the topic of
conversion for the week, I view this journey that Dr. King undertook as a conversion process. It
is evident by following his thoughts and beliefs of the great sociological masters that Dr. King
was constantly converting from one ideology to another as he grew and developed through life.
While the religion he subscribed to might have remained constant, the way in which he viewed
the world changed. In that light, the way he perceived his religion also changed. It is clear that
his viewpoint of his fellow humans and the way that they were able to shape the world was

molded by the authors from whom he read and the criticisms he developed in contrast to their
work.
Furthermore, Dr. Kings spiritual and sociological journey greatly mirrors the conversion
process that is common in religious conversion. With each new perspective that Dr. King heard
from, he added new understanding to the ideas and concepts he already held. At the same time, at
no point did he completely align his vision with that of another thinker. Instead, he amalgamated
his viewpoints and some of the ones that he found in the writing of others to create his own
perception of the world and his place in it. This is very similar to how many spiritual people find
their place in the world. Whether moving from one religion to another or not, every individual is
shaped by the experiences they have and the ideas that are presented to them over time. These
experiences and ideas cause each individuals religion or perspective on their religion to be
constantly changing as they change their worldview. In the end, however, each person develops
their own perspective on faith and spirituality that can never be in exact alignment with that of
another. It is from this personalized faith that a true passion for spirituality emerges. Those who
hold strong convictions in their faith are often those who have tested and questioned their faiths
the most and found the answers and the guidance that they were looking for. From there, they
can build a passion that is very similar to the one with which Dr. King led and spoke. Because he
took the time to create his own perception of resistance in a sociological perspective, he was able
to translate his thoughts into an action plan about which he had strong convictions. In this way,
he was able to lead without aiming to lead, as he described in his book. He simply provided the
well-reasoned, deeply passionate form of resistance that freed a people from an oppression that
had gone on for too long.
The other author for the week, B.R. Ambedkar, also highlights a conversion process that
ties in to social justice. Ambedkar was an Indian politician, social activist, and economist who

was born into the Dalit (Untouchable) caste. Among the first well-educated Dalits of the 20th
century, Ambedkar even went on to serve as the Chief Architect of the Constitution of India,
despite the many socioeconomic barriers to his success. Some of his work as a social activist was
the focus for the speech which served as one of the pieces for this week. In this speech,
Ambedkar calls for all of Indias Dalits to convert from the oppressive Hinduism that made them
into second class citizens to Buddhism. His thought process was that the Dalits should not
ascribe to a faith that regarded them as the lowest of the low, but should instead seek selfempowerment and live a good and wholesome life through the more egalitarian teachings of
Buddhism. In my opinion, this encouragement of a conversion en masse makes a great deal of
sense. If the Dalits are told by their own religion that they are worth nothing and can never make
anything of themselves, then they should change their faith to one that is more welcoming to
them and the many talents that they bring to the world as human beings. This form of enacting
social justice is a wonderful tool to bring about egalitarian values in a nation long dominated by
a rigid and unequal preference for some people over others. Ambedkar shines bright as an
example of all the potential in each Indian, regardless of their caste. In light of his success, his
call for all Dalits to give up their chains for a new religion is well-intentioned and necessary.
Much like Dr. King, Ambedkar uses a form of nonviolent resistance to empower the undervalued
and oppressed members of society. This nonviolent resistance gives them a voice that creates
lasting change. And while the two were able to achieve similar objectives by utilizing similar
tactics, by no means were their techniques the same. Just like Dr. King was shaped by his many
readings, B.R. Ambedkar was undoubtedly shaped by the many discriminatory practices and
abuses he had to endure over the course of his life. His own personal experience fueled his
passion and his ideas, and eventually led him to call for the equality of the Dalit caste in his own
personal take on nonviolent resistance.