Ismail Einashe, British Citizen of Somali Origin, Describes How The Status of Migrants is “Permanently Up for Review” in the New Intolerant UK

16.5.17

The journalist Ismail Einashe, in the header from his article about citizenship in the UK, firs published in the New Humanist magazine, and then in the Guardian.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

What strange, and almost unbelievably infuriating times we live in, as Donald Trump somehow remains president in the US, and Britain continues to be bludgeoned by a phoney demonstration of democracy. The latest example is the General Election on June 8, which follows a previous example just two years ago, despite the Tories introducing legislation to ensure that elections only take place every five years. In between, there was, of course, the lamentable EU referendum that is the reason for this General Election, as Theresa May struggles to provide endless distractions from the reality that leaving the EU will be an unmitigated disaster, the single greatest instance of a nation declaring economic suicide in most, if not all of our lifetimes.

For Theresa May, this is an election in which nothing must be discussed, just the endless repetition of soundbites about being “strong and stable,” and lies about how an increased Tory majority will improve our Brexit negotiations. In fact, the size of the government’s majority means nothing at all in the negotiations with the EU that the Tories want to avoid discussing because they have no idea what they are doing, and while this is ostensibly good for the opposition parties, the Brexit blanket, like a thick fog, is tending to obscure any serious discussion of the government’s many other failings — on the economy, on the NHS, on all manner of fronts — and this, of course, is being aided by the generally biased, right-wing media that is such a drag on anything resembling progressive politics in this country

What is also being forgotten, or overlooked, is how Theresa May, a soft Remainer who has, cynically, turned herself into the hardest of hard Brexiteers, is so dangerous not only because her actions reveal how she has no principles whatsoever that she will not sacrifice to stay in power, but also because, in her previous job, as the home secretary, she was dangerously racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic. I discussed her record in detail at the time of her leadership victory, in an article entitled, As Theresa May Becomes Prime Minister, A Look Back at Her Authoritarianism, Islamophobia and Harshness on Immigration, and I was reminded of it a few months ago in a detailed article by the journalist Ismail Einashe, a British citizen of Somali origin, which he wrote for the spring 2017 edition of the New Humanist magazine, and which was then picked up by the Guardian.

I’ve been meaning to cross-post it ever since, and am taking the opportunity to do so now because racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia are actually at the heart of Britain’s current suicidal woes — and are also a key part of the worldview of our wretched Prime Minister.

Einashe, who arrived in the UK from Somalia in 1994 and got a British passport in 2002, points out how, over the last 15 years, the key concept of citizenship has been eroded, and he reminds those who had forgotten — or perhaps never even knew in the first place — how central a role Theresa May has played in this.

He traces the problem with the perception of Muslims in the UK back to two events in 2001 — 9/11, of course, but also the race riots in the north of England, which, he notes, “provoked a fraught public conversation on Muslims’ perceived lack of integration, and how we could live together in a multi-ethnic society.” Interestingly, one of the first public events I took part in as a speaker on Guantánamo, in 2007, was with Arun Kundnani, who had written an excellent book, The End of Tolerance: Racism in 21st Century Britain, which included analysis of the riots, demonstrating that it was unemployment that had led to friction between different cultures. In the past, different cultures met on the factory floor, but with no work in neo-liberal Britain, Muslims in the northern towns where the riots took place had ended up accidentally ghettoised, although the white British saw that as deliberate isolation.

As the hysteria mounted, Einashe notes, “the Blair government decided to use a little-known law – the 1914 British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act – to revoke the citizenship of naturalised British persons, largely in terrorism cases.”

Of key concern are the following two paragraphs, making reference to the stripping of citizenship under Theresa May that I discussed in 2014 in two articles, The UK’s Unacceptable Obsession with Stripping British Citizens of Their UK Nationality and MPs Support Alarming Citizenship-Stripping Measures Introduced by Theresa May. As Einashe states:

In 2006, the home secretary was given further powers to revoke British citizenship. At the time, the government sought to allay concerns about misuse of these powers. “The secretary of state cannot make an order on a whim,” the home office minister Angela Eagle had said when the law was first proposed, “and he[/she] will be subject to judicial oversight when he[/she] makes an order.”

Although the post-9/11 measures were initially presented as temporary, they have become permanent. And the home secretary can strip people of their citizenship without giving a clear reason. No court approval is required, and the person concerned does not need to have committed a crime. The practice is growing. Under Labour, just five people had their citizenship removed, but when Theresa May was at the Home Office, 70 people were stripped of their citizenship, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Yet these near-arbitrary powers have caused remarkably little concern.

In his conclusion, Einashe writes that, in the UK today, “becoming a naturalised citizen is no longer a guarantee against the political whims of the day: you are, in effect, a second-class citizen.” He adds that “[c]itizenship-stripping is now a fixture of the state,” and correctly describes it as an unacceptable move by the government to “empower” itself “at the expense of ordinary people.” He cites Hannah Arendt, the political theorist, who “memorably described citizenship as ‘the right to have rights,’” but adds that “for people of migrant background such as myself, this is being eroded. We are not a small group: according to the 2011 census, there are 3.4 million naturalised Brits.”

With Trump in power in the US, having attempted to implement a ban on Muslims from seven countries, Einashe notes that he “happened to be visiting New York at the time,” and the ban “left me wondering if I will ever be allowed to again.” With the virus of intolerance spreading so easily form country to country, Trump’s ban — though subject to massive legal challenges in the US — has nevertheless resonated with those seeking to defend intolerance in other countries, and not for nothing does Einashe end his article by stating that, “In other liberal democracies such as Australia and Canada, moves are under way to enable citizenship-stripping – sending people like me a clear message that our citizenship is permanently up for review.”

I hope you have time to read there article, and that you will share it if you find it useful.

The struggle to be British: my life as a second-class citizen
By Ismail Einashe, the Guardian, March 2, 2017

After arriving in Britain as a child, I fought hard to feel like I belonged. Now it feels that the status of migrants like me is permanently up for review.

I used my British passport for the first time on a January morning in 2002, to board a Eurostar train to Paris. I was taking a paper on the French Revolution for my history A-level and was on a trip to explore the key sites of the period, including a visit to Louis XIV’s chateau at Versailles. When I arrived at Gare du Nord I felt a tingle of nerves cascade through my body: I had become a naturalised British citizen only the year before. As I got closer to border control my palms became sweaty, clutching my new passport. A voice inside told me the severe-looking French officers would not accept that I really was British and would not allow me to enter France. To my great surprise, they did.

Back then, becoming a British citizen was a dull bureaucratic procedure. When my family arrived as refugees from Somalia’s civil war, a few days after Christmas 1994, we were processed at the airport, and then largely forgotten. A few years after I got my passport all that changed. From 2004, adults who applied for British citizenship were required to attend a ceremony; to take an oath of allegiance to the monarch and make a pledge to the UK.

These ceremonies, organised by local authorities in town halls up and down the country, marked a shift in how the British state viewed citizenship. Before, it was a result of how long you had stayed in Britain – now it was supposed to be earned through active participation in society. In 2002, the government had also introduced a “life in the UK” test for prospective citizens. The tests point to something important: being a citizen on paper is not the same as truly belonging. Official Britain has been happy to celebrate symbols of multiculturalism – the curry house and the Notting Hill carnival – while ignoring the divisions between communities. Nor did the state give much of a helping hand to newcomers: there was little effort made to help families like mine learn English.

But in the last 15 years, citizenship, participation and “shared values” have been given ever more emphasis. They have also been accompanied by a deepening atmosphere of suspicion around people of Muslim background, particularly those who were born overseas or hold dual nationality. This is making people like me, who have struggled to become British, feel like second-class citizens.

*****

When I arrived in Britain aged nine, I spoke no English and knew virtually nothing about this island. My family was moved into a run-down hostel on London’s Camden Road, which housed refugees – Kurds, Bosnians, Kosovans. Spending my first few months in Britain among other new arrivals was an interesting experience. Although, like my family, they were Muslim, their habits were different to ours. The Balkan refugees liked to drink vodka. After some months we had to move, this time to Colindale in north London.

Colindale was home to a large white working-class community, and our arrival was met with hostility. There were no warm welcomes from the locals, just a cold thud. None of my family spoke English, but I had soon mastered a few phrases in my new tongue: “Excuse me”, “How much is this?”, “Can I have …?”, “Thank you”. It was enough to allow us to navigate our way through the maze of shops in Grahame Park, the largest council estate in Barnet. This estate had opened in 1971, conceived as a garden city, but by the mid-1990s it had fallen into decay and isolation. This brick city became our home. As with other refugee communities before us, Britain had been generous in giving Somalis sanctuary, but was too indifferent to help us truly join in. Families like mine were plunged into unfamiliar cities, alienated and unable to make sense of our new homes. For us, there were no guidebooks on how to fit into British society or a map of how to become a citizen.

My family – the only black family on our street – stuck out like a sore thumb. Some neighbours would throw rubbish into our garden, perhaps because they disapproved of our presence. That first winter in Britain was brutal for us. We had never experienced anything like it and my lips cracked. But whenever it snowed I would run out to the street, stand in the cold, chest out and palms ready to meet the sky, and for the first time feel the sensation of snowflakes on my hands. The following summer I spent my days blasting Shaggy’s Boombastic on my cherished cassette player. But I also realised just how different I was from the children around me. Though most of them were polite, others called me names I did not understand. At the playground they would not let me join in their games – instead they would stare at me. I knew then, aged 11, that there was a distance between them and me, which even childhood curiosity could not overcome.

Although it was hard for me to fit in and make new friends, at least my English was improving. This was not the case for the rest of my family, so they held on to each other, afraid of what was outside our four walls. It was mundane growing up in working-class suburbia: we rarely left our street, except for occasional visits to the Indian cash-and-carry in Kingsbury to buy lamb, cumin and basmati rice. Sometimes one of our neighbours would swerve his van close to the pavement edge if it rained and he happened to spot my mother walking past, so he could splash her long dirac and hijab with dirty water. If he succeeded, he would lean out of the window, thumbs up, laughing hysterically. My mother’s response was always the same. She would walk back to the house, grab a towel and dry herself.

At secondary school in Edgware, the children were still mostly white, but there was a sizeable minority of Sikhs and Hindus. My new classmates would laugh at how I pronounced certain English words. I couldn’t say “congratulations” properly, the difficult part being the “gra”. I would perform saying that word, much to the amusement of my classmates. As the end of term approached, my classmates would ask where I was going on holiday. I would tell them, “Nowhere”, adding, “I don’t have a passport”.

When I was in my early teens, we were rehoused and I had to move to the south Camden Community school in Somers Town. There, a dozen languages were spoken and you could count the number of white students in my year on two hands. There was tension in the air and pupils were mostly segregated along ethnic lines – Turks, Bengalis, English, Somalis, Portuguese. Turf wars were not uncommon and fights broke out at the school gates. The British National party targeted the area in the mid-1990s, seeking to exploit the murder of a white teenager by a Bengali gang. At one point a halal butcher was firebombed.

Though I grew up minutes from the centre of Europe’s biggest city, I rarely ventured far beyond my own community. For us, there were no trips to museums, seaside excursions or cinema visits. MTV Base, the chicken shop and McDonald’s marked my teen years. I had little connection to other parts of Britain, beyond the snippets of middle-class life I observed via my white teachers. And I was still living with refugee documents, given “indefinite leave to remain” that could still be revoked at some future point. I realised then that no amount of identification with my new-found culture could make up for the reality that, without naturalisation, I was not considered British.

At 16, I took my GCSEs and got the grades to leave behind one of the worst state schools in London for one of the best: the mixed sixth form at Camden School for Girls. Most of the teens at my new school had previously attended some of Britain’s best private schools – City of London, Westminster, Highgate – and were in the majority white and middle-class.

It was strange to go from a Muslim-majority school to a sixth form where the children of London’s liberal set attended: only a mile apart, but worlds removed. I am not certain my family understood this change. My cousins thought it was weird that I did not attend the local college, but my old teachers insisted I go to the sixth form if I wanted to get into a good university. A few days after starting there, I got my naturalisation certificate, which opened the way for me to apply for my British passport.

*****

Around the time I became a British citizen, the political mood had started to shift. In the summer of 2001, Britain experienced its worst race riots in a generation. These riots, involving white and Asian communities in towns in the north-west of England, were short but violent. They provoked a fraught public conversation on Muslims’ perceived lack of integration, and how we could live together in a multi-ethnic society. This conversation was intensified by the 9/11 attacks in the US. President George W Bush’s declaration of a “war on terror” created a binary between the good and the bad immigrant, and the moderate and the radical Muslim. The London bombings of 7 July 2005 added yet more intensity to the conversation in Britain.

Politicians from across the spectrum agreed that a shared British identity was important, but they couldn’t agree on what that might be. In 2004, the Conservative leader Michael Howard had referred to “The British dream” when speaking about his Jewish immigrant roots. After 2005, he wrote in the Guardian that the tube attacks had “shattered” complacency about Britain’s record on integration. Britain had to face “the terrible truth of being the first western country to have suffered terrorist attacks perpetrated by ‘home-grown’ suicide bombers – born and educated in Britain”. Many commentators questioned whether being a Muslim and British were consistent identities; indeed whether Islam itself was compatible with liberal democracy.

Howard defined a shared identity through institutions such as democracy, monarchy, the rule of law and a national history. But others argued that making a checklist was a very un-British thing to do. Labour’s Gordon Brown, in a 2004 article for the Guardian, wrote that liberty, tolerance and fair play were the core values of Britishness. While acknowledging such values exist in other cultures and countries, he went on to say that when these values are combined together they make a “distinctive Britishness that has been manifest throughout our history and has shaped it”.

For me, at least, becoming a British citizen was a major milestone. It not only signalled that I felt increasingly British but that I now had the legal right to feel this way.

But my new identity was less secure than I realised. Only a few months after my trip to Paris, the Blair government decided to use a little-known law – the 1914 British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act – to revoke the citizenship of naturalised British persons, largely in terrorism cases. Before 1914, British citizenship, once obtained, could only be given up voluntarily by an individual, but that changed with the advent of the first world war. According to the Oxford politics professor Matthew Gibney, the 1914 act was a response to anti-German sentiment and fears about the loyalty of people with dual British-German citizenship. A further law, passed in 1918, created new and wide-ranging grounds to revoke citizenship.

In theory, since 1918, the home secretary has had the power to remove a naturalised person or dual-nationality-holder’s British citizenship if it was considered “conducive to the public good”, but a 1981 law prevented them from doing so if it made the person stateless. Since 9/11, that restraint has been gradually abandoned.

In 2006, the home secretary was given further powers to revoke British citizenship. At the time, the government sought to allay concerns about misuse of these powers. “The secretary of state cannot make an order on a whim,” the home office minister Angela Eagle had said when the law was first proposed, “and he will be subject to judicial oversight when he makes an order”.

Although the post-9/11 measures were initially presented as temporary, they have become permanent. And the home secretary can strip people of their citizenship without giving a clear reason. No court approval is required, and the person concerned does not need to have committed a crime. The practice is growing. Under Labour, just five people had their citizenship removed, but when Theresa May was at the Home Office, 70 people were stripped of their citizenship, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Yet these near-arbitrary powers have caused remarkably little concern.

*****

People have largely accepted these new powers because they are presented as a way to keep the country safe from terrorism. After 9/11, the public became more aware of the Islamist preachers who had made London their home in the preceding decades. Abu Hamza, who was then the imam of Finsbury Park mosque, and became a notorious figure in the media, was, like me, a naturalised British citizen. For several years as a teenager, I attended the Finsbury Park mosque. It was small; I remember the smell of tea, incense and feet that greeted you every time you walked in. I also remember the eclectic mix of worshippers who visited – Algerians, Afghans, Somalis and Moroccans. Unlike Muslims of south-Asian background, few of these people had longstanding colonial ties to Britain. Most had fled civil war in their home countries, while some of the North Africans had left France because they felt it treated Muslims too harshly. The mosque was not affiliated with the Muslim Association of Britain, and its preachers promoted a Salafi form of Islam.

I remember Abu Hamza as a larger-than-life character, whose presence dominated mosque life, especially at Friday prayers when he would go into very long sermons – usually about the dangers of becoming too British. Attending this mosque was like being cocooned from the realities of modern life. I recall Abu Hamza once going off about how, as young Muslim teens, we were not to follow the “kuffar” in their habit of engaging in premarital sex. For much of my teens, this mosque held a kind of control over me, based on fear. That changed when I moved to my new sixth form and felt able to start exploring the world for myself, and began to realise that I could be secular, liberal and humanist.

I went in one direction, but other people I knew chose different paths. Before 2001, I don’t recall many women wearing the niqab, but as the years wore on it became a more common sight on the streets of London. My sister even began to wear one – contrary to media stereotypes of women being coerced, she chose to, as did many of the young women I had gone to school with. The way that young Muslims practised Islam in Britain changed, in line with global developments. They dropped the varied cultural baggage of their parents’ versions of the religion and began a journey to a distinct British Islam – something that connected the Somali refugee and the second-generation Bangladeshi, the Irish and Jamaican converts.

Some of the white working-class kids I grew up with converted to Islam. Daniel became Yusef and Emma became Khadija. Before I knew it, they were giving me advice about how Muslims should behave. I observed this role reversal with amusement. One boy in particular would preach to me while incessantly saying “bruv”. I also saw the young men I had grown up with move away from a life sat on bikes wearing hoods under bridges in Camden listening to grime, to practising their Islam more visibly. Out went the sneaky pints, spliffs and casual sex. Now it was beards, sermons about the faith and handing out Islamic leaflets on street corners. But I did not heed their words. When I was 16 I stopped attending the mosque and I began to question my faith.

Mahdi Hashi was one of the young men I grew up with. Hashi was another child refugee from Somalia. As a teenager he used to complain that he was being followed by the British security services. He said they wanted to make him an informant. Hashi was not alone. In 2009, he and other young Muslim men from Camden took their allegations to the press. One said that a man posing as a postal worker turned up at his door and told him that if he did not cooperate with the security services, then his safety could not be guaranteed if he ever left Britain.

*****

For most newcomers, citizenship is not just confirmation of an identity, it is also about protection: that you will be guaranteed rights and treated according to the law. Hashi lost that protection. In 2009, he left for Somalia because, his family say, of harassment by the security services. In June 2012, his family received a letter informing them that he was to lose his British citizenship. Later that summer Hashi turned up in Djibouti, a tiny former French colony on the Red Sea. He was arrested. He alleges that he was threatened with physical abuse and rape if he did not cooperate with authorities in Djibouti – and he alleges that US officials questioned him. In November 2012, he was given over to the Americans and taken to the US without any formal extradition proceedings. In 2016, Hashi was sentenced in New York to nine years in prison for allegedly supporting the jihadist group al-Shabaab. He will be deported to Somalia upon his release.

Hashi’s case is not unique. Bilal Berjawi, who came to Britain from Lebanon as a child, had his British citizenship revoked in 2012 and was killed in a US drone strike on the outskirts of Mogadishu. His friend Mohamed Sakr, who held dual British-Egyptian nationality, was also killed by a drone strike in Somalia after he had been stripped of his UK citizenship. Together with a third friend, the two young men had visited Tanzania in 2009 on what they claimed was a safari trip, but were arrested, accused of trying to reach Somalia and returned to the UK. The third friend was Mohammed Emwazi, now better known as the Isis executioner “Jihadi John”.

The war in Syria, and the attraction that Isis and other jihadist groups hold for a small minority of British Muslims, has led to a further increase in citizenship-stripping. In 2013 Theresa May, who was then home secretary, removed the citizenship of 13 people who had left for Syria. The government has a duty to protect people, but the tool it is using will have wider, damaging consequences.

*****

The right of newcomers to be considered fully British has been a long struggle. The first border controls of the 20th century were introduced to stop the movement of “alien” Jewish refugees from eastern Europe. In 1948, the British Nationality Act gave citizenship to anyone who had been a subject of empire, but those black and Asian migrants who took up the offer – indeed, who often thought of themselves as British – were met with shocking racism: with “no Irish, no blacks, no dogs”. The 1962 Immigration Act began to limit the citizenship rights of people from the non-white colonies, and by the 1982 Act it was all over.

Now we are caught in a paradox, where the state is demanding more effort than ever on the part of the migrant to integrate, but your citizenship is never fully guaranteed. Fifteen years on from the events of 9/11, gaining British citizenship is a much tougher process. And becoming a naturalised citizen is no longer a guarantee against the political whims of the day: you are, in effect, a second-class citizen. Citizenship-stripping is now a fixture of the state, and it is defended in the usual vein, which is to say: “If you have not done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear.” The usual caveat is that this concerns terrorists and criminals – a red herring that masks the true purpose of such laws, which is to empower the state at the expense of ordinary people. The philosopher Hannah Arendt memorably described citizenship as “the right to have rights”, but for people of migrant background such as myself, this is being eroded. We are not a small group: according to the 2011 census, there are 3.4 million naturalised Brits.

As I was writing this piece, Donald Trump issued his executive order that bans people from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Somalia, from entering the US – even if they hold dual nationality. I happened to be visiting New York at the time, and the ban has left me wondering if I will ever be allowed to again. Despite assurances from Britain’s government, it remains unclear whether the ban applies to people who hold a British passport, but were born overseas. Trump’s ban did not happen in a vacuum: there is a thread linking the anti-terror policies of western governments and this extreme new step.

Today, I no longer feel so safe in my status as a naturalised British citizen, and it is not just the UK. In other liberal democracies such as Australia and Canada, moves are under way to enable citizenship-stripping – sending people like me a clear message that our citizenship is permanently up for review.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

8 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, a cross-post, with my own commentary, of a moving account by the journalist Ismail Einashe of how the status of immigrants is “permanently up for review” in modern Britain. Born in Somalia, Einashe is a naturalised UK citizen, and he powerfully examines how, since 9/11, the stripping of citizenship has become more common in the UK. He points out that, as bears repeating, it was particularly prevalent while Theresa May was home secretary – yet another reason why this dangerous authoritarian is unfit to be Prime Minister.

  2. Tom says...

    Meanwhile in the US, many Muslim immigrants continue to cross the border into Canada. Both Justin Trudeau and Canadian Immigration know that this number will only increase. Opponents to these people coming in almost always use the same weak argument. These people really aren’t “refugees”. They’re just country shopping. No actual proof of this. Just gossip, innuendo and racism.

    If you’re a person of color, Hispanic, Middle Eastern and have a “foreign sounding name”, Trump wants you out. Have you ever heard of a white illegal immigrant being deported from the US? No you haven’t. That doesn’t get ratings for the media or political points for politicians. So what Trump and many of his “advisors” want is a race war. Get rid of all dark skinned people. Then the ones that are left will be told to shut up and get to the back of the bus. Bring back the good old days of apartheid.

  3. Tom says...

    Have Hispanic US citizens been deported to Mexico? Yes they have, and it continues to happen.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Tom, and thanks for your heartfelt response to the terrible racism that drives Donald Trump’s immigration policies. He is, sadly, not only causing grief in the US, but his poison is also spreading throughout the western world, encouraging other racicts to believe that they too can turn back the clock to the 1950s.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    When my friend George Berger shared this, he wrote:

    An important article, written by Andy Worthington

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing, George. I worry that far too many British people are falling for Theresa May’s cynical, robotic “strong and stable” mantra, when her so-called strength actually involves racism, xenophobia and inflexibility, and I was glad to have had the opportunity to highlight – again – how truly alarming it is when governments assert an extrajudicial right to strip people of their citizenship.

  7. Anna says...

    Mr Einashe is someone to start following, thank you for cross-posting Andy. What he wrote is very timely (well, when isn’t it?) in view of Mad May’s recent election manifesto in which she has the nerve to promise paradise to all immigrants in the UK – as professed during a rally in Halifax. As empty promises nowadays lead to Nobel Peace Prizes, she might be the next beneficiary.

    “adults who applied for British citizenship were required to attend a ceremony; to take an oath of allegiance to the monarch and make a pledge to the UK”.

    That – not surprisingly – sounds like copy-catting the US procedures. Next will be requiring having the national flag as a permanent fixture in one’s garden or window, as is common in the US.

    When I – then also stateless – for the first time considered applying for Dutch citizenship in the eighties, that required sending a personal letter to the Queen with an official request.

    I refused to do that, considering that as I had been born in that country nearly 40 years earlier and was paying taxes there – not to mention not having any criminal record whatsoever – getting their citizenship should be a simple formality, receiving a state passport instead of a UNHCR travel document. I eventually did acquire that citizenship, but not before the procedure had been reduced to filling out a form, as it should be, and of course having my record checked by the foreigners police. Having to – publicly ! – make such pledges is humiliating and counterproductive as it erodes respect for the host country. It means that one is expected to assimilate as opposed to integrate. The first meaning that one agrees to abdicate one’s original cultural identity and values and replace it with the host country’s ones – no matter how different or alien they may be. It inherently assumes that the host country’s culture, civilization etc, are better, higher, nobler than the applicant’s original one. And that citizenship is a favour extended by a condescending superior civilization, Dr Schweitzer style. Integration on the contrary respects one’s original cultural identity and allows one to continue nurturing it in private and social life, as long as one respects the host country’s laws, as must any other citizen.

    But few make that distinction and politicians & press routinely accuse perfectly integrated foreigners of not integrating, while meaning ‘not assimilating’.

    And my own experience – being white, non-muslim and European to begin with – is a mere fraction of what it’s like for those who continuously stand out because of their skin colour.

    As for the travel ban, when it was issued I informed the relevant US embassy that I refuse the privilege of being admitted just because I’m white & non-muslim and that therefore I ask them to revoke my still valid visa waiver. No answer of course, apart from the automatic computerised one.

    And yes Tom,”Have you ever heard of a white illegal immigrant being deported from the US?” What’s more, of late I keep seeing ‘apply for a green card’ adds popping up on internet, with a ‘scandinavian’ blonde’s picture, saying something like “Do you know that European immigrants integrate very easily in the US?” …

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Anna, and I’m pleased to hear that you plan to follow Ismail Einashe’s work.
    Thanks for your very powerful comments about the distinction between integration and assimilation. I hadn’t seen the difference so succinctly expressed, and it ought to alarm everyone decent that governments are intruding unacceptable on people’s right to have independent thought by insisting that they swear some sort of national allegiance, and, as you note, that they tacitly accept that the country offering them citizenship is some sort of superior culture.
    It has, for many years, been a sign of Britain’s decline as a country capable of self-examination that flags are much more widespread than they used to be. This was cynically promoted by politicians and the media, especially at the time of the Olympics, but of course it eventually also played into the dangerous nonsense of Brexit.
    I’m with Bob Dylan on this. Back in 1984, in a song called, ‘Sweetheart Like You’, he wrote:

    They say that patriotism is the last refuge
    To which a scoundrel clings
    Steal a little and they throw you in jail
    Steal a lot and they make you king

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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