Community service, a good condition for UK citizenship?

It seems that UK is becoming less and less welcoming of new immigrants . In the past, people used to come and settle just by having a passport. Now visa has become the major obstacle to get in, at least for tourism. The conditions for granting citizenship can put more obstacles for those aspiring for UK citizenship. Among these is language test. It seems like a high school graduate who has to take entry test in a college or university to have a seat in it. This can prove difficult to some, especially at an advanced age to acquire a new language. Not everyone has language aptitude. It also remains to know what level of language aspiring immigrants for citizenship should have: ABC, intermediate or advanced. The question that remains to ask if those granted citizenship on the basis of language will be stripped of it if found unable to speak it again!

Concerning community service, it can be laudable as it introduces immigrants to the ways of life in UK, mingling with its citizens. It remains to see what help those performing this service can get from their surrounding and if it actually helps for integration. An analogy can be made with someone learning to drive and ending by getting a driving license. Does this mean this person will abide by the driving rules every mile? Will the new citizens be stripped of their citizenship if found out to have forgotten English and not be able to speak a word of it?

Community service and language can be just a formality added to the already existing bureaucratic conditions for full citizenship. What matters is what will happen after getting it and the opportunity the immigrants can get after they have become full citizens. Will they abide by the rules and be good citizens or will the abuse their citizenship to become an embarrassment to British society?

What UK needs to work hard on is to find ways to integrate minorities, especially the Muslim one, instead of allowing it to be transformed into a ghetto breeding extremists because the country where they live appears to them as a strange land or just a ground for practicing their perception of jihad. When society is cleaned of its ails, new citizens will find it natural to integrate in its mainstream. Citizenship is a matter of heart and mind. Getting into the mind and heart of all citizens is what secures the identity, security and integration of a country.

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Exchanges about US status in the world on BBC WHYS

At 02:54 AM on 24 Feb 2007, Mark wrote:
Just go anywhere where there is no freedom or democracy, talk to the people who have lived their lives there and you will have little doubt about what you’ve taken for granted like breathing air all your life. One thing you often notice is their fear just talking about it. They often point out what few freedoms they do have, dismiss the importance of the ones they don’t, and try to change the subject as soon as possible. A typical example, are interviews with women in Saudi Arabia broadcast in the last year or two but you could talk to people in Iran or China and hear the same.
The subject of freedom and democracy in America is as vast and complex as the study of the workings of its laws and government, its entire history, what it took from the civilizations it evolved from like English common law, how the founding fathers grappled with the problem of creating a government which would be effective but could never become a tyranny, how they envisioned the future, and how Americans adapted their system to changing circumstances over the past two centuries. America is the world’s oldest existing democracy. America is not like any other country. It is a radical experiment in human relations still in progress. Its meteoric success rising from thirteen remote obscure colonies in an endless hostile wilderness to the world’s pre-eminent power some have foolishly and mistakenly likened to the Roman Empire during its brief history would have astonished those who created it. Most people from the outside have a superficial understanding of it at best, and more often than not don’t really understand it at all. We haven’t devoted much time or effort explaining it to them while others have fed them nothing by lies. I think the most common mistake they make is that they fail to see that America’s success is a consequence of its democracy and freedom and not the other way around. Those who aspire to match it materially such as China, India, and the EU have failed to see that democracy is the vital prerequisite, the one they in fact ultimately reject no matter what they say or call what they have instead.

· At 04:48 PM on 24 Feb 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:
To Mark who says, “Those who aspire to match [USA]materially such as China, India, and the EU have failed to see that democracy is the vital prerequisite.”
It might be agreed that China is still undemocratic because of its one party system and its records on human rights. But India is a relatively democratic country.
What is not understood in your comment is when you also include the EU as a part of the ring of undemocratic countries. There no disagreement that Britain (Which is an EU member) is the cradle of democracy that inspired many around the world. Magna Carta (dating to 1215) was the oldest statement of power sharing at that time between the English king and the noble class.
So singling out the USA as the most democratic country in the world while ignoring the democratic practices in other countries like UK and Germany amounts to zealous patriotism which wrongly belittles the achievements of other democracies.
· At 05:45 PM on 24 Feb 2007, Mark wrote:
Abdelilah BoukiliIndia a democracy? Baloney. Not when hundreds of millions are trapped in poverty forever by a corrupt government which has institutionalized discrimination against half the population which are women, lower castes, and non Moslems. Where are their representatives screaming in congress and in the courts for their rights? You can’t have democracy in a nation as corrupt and bureaucratic as India. The formality may be there, the rhetoric may be there, but the substance of it isn’t. India’s prosperity is for a minority paid for on the backs of the majority, paid in hopeless poverty, unacceptable wages, unacceptable working conditions, unacceptable pollution of their environment, and no democratic recourse for redress of their grievances.
Britain a democracy? Baloney. Not with a House of Lords, an official religion, and a Monarchy. Not when there is no separation of powers between legislative and executive branches. Not when the nation’s sovereignty has been partially ceded to an unelected unrepresentative bureaucracy in Brussels and half the nation can hardly wait to cede the rest of it. Not when everything anyone does winds up taxing them out of business. Drill a hole in a piece of wood, stick a screw in it and give it half a turn and it is taxed. The power to tax is the power to destroy. Britain is prosperous only by comparison to its even less democratic counterparts on mainland Europe and ALL of them have skated by on not spending anything like their fair share of the cost of their military defense for over 60 years relying on the American taxpayer to foot the bill for them. Look at the HYS comments on the proposed “son of starwars” missile defense shield. Those in Britain who want it expect one more free ride on the back of Uncle Sam meaning the American taxpayer. The smartest people in Britain…aren’t there anymore having left for more hospitable climes.
Germany democratic? Ask the Turks and other foreigners who live there and do much of the dirty work. If they were there ten generations, they’d never be accepted as real Germans.
Were it up to me, America would pull all of our forces out of Europe, Japan, and Korea and let them buy their own defense. Then we’d see just how prosperous they really are. America has wasted trillions on these ingrates.

At 02:50 PM on 26 Feb 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:
To Mark,
You seem to equate democracy with material prosperity. USA, despite its economic power still has sections of poor people. Not all Americans are prosperous, not to mention states which don’t share the same amount of material wealth. In the US, there are still poor among blacks and Hispanics. According to the latest statistics, 20% of the Hispanics live under poverty line. Nobody, despite all this, questions American democracy as it still gives opportunities to everyone to rise to top.
You seem to want everything to be on American model, which won’t necessarily work in every part of the world. UK is a true democratic country despite its House of Lords as its members have advisory role and not a compelling one. In the USA, you have aspects of monarchy in disguise. There is the Bush dynasty, Clinton dynasty, not to mention the Kennedy dynasty. In business, there is the Ford dynasty, just to give an example.
Saying that Japan can’t defend itself is wrong. If the Japanese have the technological skill for unlimited inventions, they can invent the weapons they need, including nuclear ones. You seem to forget that electronic equipments in many of US precision arms, especially those guided by satellite, are of Japanese origin. Look around you in the USA and see how many Japanese products are around, contributing to the welfare of the American citizen.
As for UK, is this the way to thank her for standing by your country in military operations, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan. As for the missile system, this time it’s the US that needs UK as they can intercept any missile attack directed at the it.
When you say, “Were it up to me, America would pull all of our forces out of Europe, Japan, and Korea and let them buy their own defense. Then we’d see just how prosperous they really are.”, you are just for US isolationist policy which has never worked for it. Shall I say, let all international financial institutions pull out of the US and see how prosperous the US will be without international trade?

At 09:02 PM on 26 Feb 2007, Mark wrote:
Abdelilah Boukili I do not equate democracy with prosperity. My comment was in response to Owen Bennet Jones’ interview of Sir Christopher Meyers who was Britain’s ambassador to the US for 5 years and quite smart. Jones asked Meyers why America was so rich. Meyers got it wrong when he said it was because America had a head start on everyone else. This was obviously false since Europe was long established a thousand years before America was even discovered and civilizations like Egypt and China had many thousands of years head start themselves. What I said was that America had become the wealthiest nation partly as a result of its democracy and not the other way around. The only headstart it had was to be the oldest existing democracy existing today.
As I understand the House of Lords, it can veto or modify legislation passed up to it from the House of Commons. What kind of democracy can there be if a group selected only from the privileged few has ANY control over legislation? And what kind of democracy is if not belonging to the official church automatically makes you an outsider? What about all those EU laws made by bureaucrats and unelected EU members which govern so much of British life that Britain must take specific exception to it if it doesn’t like it, assuming that it can opt out at all? How can a nation which can’t exercise complete sovereignty over itself be a democracy? As for American dynasties, President Bush Sr. was elected for one four year term, his son for two. President Clinton served two terms, his wife “might” be nominated to run. Are those dynasties? There are rich families in the US which seem to have some of its members enter politics for extended periods and even members of different generations. Are these dynasties? It depends on your definition. Often great wealth in a family dissipates through inheritances over several generations so that eventually, their descendants are only marginally richer than most. The Rockerfellers are a typical example. All nations have their wealthier families which have greater political influence than most. The US has been waging a war against this (and losing) with tactics such as campaign finance laws. It’s sure to continue.
Japan could build up a military to defend itself if it wanted to. It is IMO the second most advanced technological society in the world. But the cost would be enormous and it would make other nations in the region such as China and North and South Korea which remember Japan’s imperial past very nervous. They are happy to sit back and let Uncle Sam do it for them…and for American taxpayers to foot the bill too.
Britain’s contribution while notable are usually barely much more than tokenism. In combat whether in WWII or Afghanistan or Iraq, it’s the US which does the heavy lifting. The UK had about 40,000 troops in Iraq, mostly in Basra a much easier assignment than Baghdad and the Sunni triangle. It is now at about 7000 and will drop to about 5500. The US had about 140,000 before the surge and is now up to about 160,000. Britain is debating whether or not to get rid of its nuclear submarine fleet. It would rather count on the free US nuclear umbrella.
Were the US to pull out of international trade, the entire world’s economy would go bankrupt. The American consumer is 2/3 of the largest economic engine in the world. You can’t get rich if you don’t trade with the US, just ask Cuba. Much of the production in places like China and the rest of the third world was bought and paid for by Americans. It is only because the US allowed them to import their goods into the US at low tariffs that they could compete and ultimately drive most manufacturing overseas in the first place.
If the US were to pull its military out of places like Kosovo, Southeast Asia, Iraq, Afghanistan, chaos would ensue. There would be nobody else to take up the slack. American trade isolationism called protectionism resulted in the great depression all over the world (Smoot Hawley act) and American military isolationism resulted in World War II and would have resulted in World War III. But when America does get involved, it is called an imperial hegemonic empire and the world’s policeman. For America, there is no winning, it will not be liked so its best bet is to be feared. I hope Mr. Ahmadinejad feels that way but it doesn’t look like it. He’s making a big mistake, just like Saddam Hussein did, just like Slobodan Milosevic did.

· At 09:19 PM on 26 Feb 2007, Abdelilah Boukili wrote:
To Mark,
I think we will continue to disagree on how the world should view the USA. The USA has come to be what it is now through its openness to European culture, especially that of UK, since its foundation to the time when it started to export its own, influencing the rest of the world.
As for your question -“What kind of democracy is if not belonging to the official church automatically makes you an outsider?”-it’s true there are debates in UK about dropping the condition of being a member of the Anglican Church to be a Monarch. But in UK, members of different churches hold key positions. There are Catholics and Protestants working side by side. The Queen and PM Tony Blair aren’t of the same church. He’s a Catholic. JF Kennedy was the first to break the WASP domination in US policy when he was the first Catholic to be elected as President of the USA. In the USA, it is still a condition that the President should be a believer. Up to now only Christians have been presidents of the US. Up there is no sign that US will have a non-Christian president. It will be a precedent if an atheist comes to the White House. This is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. So religious affiliation is a condition to be head of the executive in both countries.
It’s true UK is having a small number of troops in Iraq compared to that of the US. But its first deployment amounted to 40,000 troops. Imagine what a stretch over the US army could have been if UK hadn’t contributed in such a number. Now the Iraqi army can defend the south of Iraq better thanks to UK and its training of them.
Militarily speaking, US has played great role in world peace since its first intervention in World War I. It had interventions in Serbia to prevent ethnic cleansing in this country against the Muslims who were victims of genocide. Nobody denies that it has fought many wars for world peace. But at the same time, it turns a blind eye to what is taking place in other places of the world when its interests aren’t threatened. It seeks alliance with democratic and undemocratic ones as long as they serve its interests. You may say US can’t be an omnipresent policemen in every place of the world. Its political necessity that makes US decide when to go to war.
Concerning international trade, it has now become intertwined. One event in an economic group affects the others. A plunge in US economy will send shivers to the rest of the world. The same applies to US economy if world economy shrinks.

What I personally see is that America needs the world and the world needs America in the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.

North Korea Inviting the head of the UN’s nuclear agency Mohamed ElBaradei

The invitation of the head of the UN’s nuclear agency Mohamed ElBaradei by North Korea for talks on its nuclear programme should be as a sign of détente between NK and the six nations groups, mainly the USA. If all parties show resilience in their discussion this can open a new era of entente between NK and its traditional opponents.

The most important is Mohamed ElBaradei shouldn’t return from NK empty handed, or with hands filled with promises that NK regime will break as he leaves NK soil. If the negotiations are successful, this will be advantageous to the USA. It will have more breathing space to manoeuvre against Iran nuclear project.

The comparison to draw between NK and Iran is that Iran allowed UN’s nuclear agency to visit its nuclear sites while progressing with its programme without arriving at a military test. NK shut the door at this agency and defiantly carrying experiments on nuclear missiles.

It remains to see what economic offer the six-nation group will present to the NK regime to make what would be a historic decision concerning nuclear weapon acquisition

Exporting American Democracy

The USA has been trying to democratise many countries, especially in the Middle East although it doesn’t seek to export or impose its style of government . It hasn’t succeeded, as the regimes there are reluctant to power sharing or power rotation. The notion of democracy varies from one country to another. The best thing the USA can do is to solidify the economic and educational infrastructures in countries whose regimes are friendly to the USA. It should let them have the style of democracy they seek.

It must be noticed that US turn a blind eye to undemocratic regimes in the Middle East because they’re cooperating with it to fight terrorism. Not to mention the close economic ties it has with them mainly through its US oil companies, which are one of the keys to US roaring economy.

On a footnote, many people in many countries around the world don’t seek US style of democracy or seek its support as they associate this with US imperialism and the risk of being under its domination. There are calls for close ties on regional basis away from American influence. American standards are still envied around the world. Only US foreign policy is still controversial on many levels in different countries.

Should Prince Harry carry out a tour of duty in Iraq?

It must be good news for Prince Harry that he will carry out a tour of duty in Iraq, as this will, in a certain way, show that the royal family isn’t aloof from being practically involved in defence matters. It is a big show of patriotism. If kings and queens can’t serve in an army as they are heads of states and rule but not govern, a chance should be given to princes.

Prince Harry has the right to fulfil his wish to be a soldier on field and not to be contented just with completing military training. He has the right to test his manhood and to take his destiny in his hand. He has learnt how to cope, along with his brother Prince Williams, prior to military service by going to remote places in Latin America to live the hard way. So, Instead of remaining under heavy security in his home country or anywhere in the world, now, it’s he who will assume the security of the others under his command and the area where he will be operating.

His participation can be a boost to the British army in Iraq to have a popular prince among them. His service there is likely to create a stir in Iraq, especially among the insurgents who may try to mount their attacks. But this should be overlooked. The army has the duty to defend its positions. It should do it with or without his presence. But his presence should be a challenge to the insurgents. Had it been decided not to grant him military service in Iraq out of fear of them, it would show them stronger than they are.

Maybe his presence will revive the romanticizing of wars where princes mingle with ordinary soldiers and live their lives away from the splendour and comfort of palaces. Prince Harry’s wish to go to Iraq is going to be fulfilled. Maybe there are others wishing to return to UK to join their families or to recuperate after the stress of having to be continuously on guard.

So good luck to all. And let it be an occasion for Prince Harry to have a well-deserved military promotion after completing his tour of duty in Iraq and set the example for young people, in particular, to be ready to defend their countries, rather than becoming too soft to go into dangerous areas.

UK planned troop withdrawal from Iraq

Now Iraqis have taken Basra security lead can mean the British troops will have lesser roles to play. Maybe By announcing a withdrawal plan withdrawal plan, Tony Blair wanted to put an end to the British troop presence in Iraq as a preparation for the new PM not to have Iraq heavily in his/her agenda when he steps down. For the UK public, this can be a relief.

The withdrawal of the British forces should be carried without leaving a mess behind. British army still has the duty to train Iraqi forces even after combating forces leave.

UK withdrawal can be seen as an indication that security in Iraq is at two levels. There are areas needing more troops from the coalition forces, others need less. The British army happens to be in a less violent region where Shiaas are the majority and where there were relatively few cases of violence in comparison with where the US army is operating.

Its withdrawal won’t leave a vacuum if the Iraqi army becomes fully capable of defending areas where the British army has been operating.

This can also be an occasion for the Iraqis of all factions to work out how to make their country peaceful and to defend it. If the Iraqis as a whole can’t live in peace among themselves, outside forces will step in, especially from Iran, one way or the other.

It remains to see how the USA will cope in Iraq when its principal ally (UK) completely withdraws its troops, in face of the mounting violence daily occurring, mainly in Baghdad.

Stars and gossip

One of the negative aspects of stardom is being the focus of the public even in private and intimate matters. Gossip about stars is an industry that yields vast sums of money to tabloids and magazines. The shaven head of a pop star like Britney Spears on the front page can earn a paper more than it will from advertising a shaving product! Some years ago, there was a photo of Barbara Streisand, leaving home in the morning without makeup. So no wonder if Britney Spears with a shaved head caught the eyes of cameras.

We hear, for example, of the divorce case of a star. But this doesn’t stop here. The press delves in its financial settlement and its ramification. Just in the past twelve months, we heard about the troubles of quite a few stars. There was, for example, Paul McCartney’s divorce case, which indirectly or directly disclosed his massive fortune.

Some people tend to view stars as people of a different planet. So what they do is an exception. Even their jokes or witty responses in a private setting travel around the world. Perhaps people don’t care much about people around them. So they try to take interest in the private lives of stars. What can be demeaning is when people look up to this star and going to the point of imagining a close relationship or seeing that star sitting with one in one’s living room. They keep following every detail of their lives.

Stars are people after all. They have their peculiar genius that makes them stand out. Some see them as idols and whatever they do or say is worth attention and debate. Their creations or performances enrich our lives. Without stars entertaining the public with their performances in music, sport or whatever, our world will be dull. They are in a sort healers, although they sometimes need healing like Robbie Williams who is back for rehab from drug addiction. But like anybody, they have their ups and downs. This should be seen as a fact of life and not a major event attracting headlines and general gossip.

Train bomb attack in India

The bomb attack on a train, part of the “Friendship Express” service that takes passengers from Delhi to Lahore in Pakistan, is an attack on the efforts made by India and Pakistan to forge durable peace between them. There must be cells intent on derailing the peace process between these countries in the hope of making it difficult for them to have continuous mutual trust. It’s unfortunate that these countries are plagued by violence that occurs now and then. Pakistan has trouble containing armed attack as it has turbulent borders. There is Kashmir which is still the bone of contention between it and India. On the other side of its borders there is Afghanistan whose radical Islamists have a deep pact with those of Pakistan. This means Pakistan borders will remain a breeding ground for armed groups ready to take whatever opportunity to attack.

The leaders of both countries were wise to condemn the attack. This is a sign that they don’t want a tragic incident like this to halt the train of friendship and trust after decades of animosity. Both countries have enormous means to track the culprit. This incident should be an opportunity to further their security cooperation.

Passengers from both countries should be brave enough to continue taking these lines. They should work to cement the link they have with the other people on either border. The incident shouldn’t make them choose to close the borders between their countries by not crossing them out of fear. Needless to say terrorists are heartless. They choose soft targets as it costs them nothing but a bag of explosives to leave the scene littered with bodies and the destroyed lives of families.

India and Pakistan should rise above their differences and give the example, as nuclear nations, they have the will to defeat what can derail their attempts for durable peace and friendship in the interest of their people that were set apart after their mutual independence because of Kashmir and religious differences.

China’s economic growth, a threat or a blessing?

China‘s spectacular economic growth is an alarm to both rich and poor countries. Wealthy nations like the USA are to face a giant in the making as it will relegate it to a power instead of a superpower. Developing countries can have their ambitions of an economic take-off hampered by the Chinese expansion in every corner of the world. One mechanism to curb Chinese economic and military threat is to devise a new international trade mechanism by which giant economies shouldn’t swallow small ones.

China will continue to be unrivalled in its economic expansions. Developed nations can’t afford to have underpaid workers who help make the prices of goods cheap. Developing countries can’t make the best of their resources. So they find in Chinese goods a shortcut to have whet they need.

Chinese economy shouldn’t morally expand at the expense of its underpaid workforce and by flooding international markets with cheap goods that in most cases don’t have the quality of other developed economies.

Can a new Middle East plan succeed?


It seems Israel and USA consider the agreement between Hamas and Fatah to form a unity government as an internal matter. According to Israeli PM Olmert, he and US President George Bush agreed to boycott a new Palestinian unity government unless it recognises Israel, This will have little effect on redressing the situation in Palestinian territories as the sanctions will continue. As the Palestinians made an effort to end internal strife among them, USA in particular should show a good gesture towards the Palestinian authority by offering it help. It shouldn’t use Hamas as a pretext to withhold it as Hamas no longer holds key ministries.

Hamas should act reasonably in its attitude towards Israel. It should have learnt from its difficulties in running Palestinian affairs internally and internationally that it can’t continue going against international agreements stipulating the rights of Israel to exist. It should seize this chance of reviving the Middle East process to give it a new life and not to be the cause of making it dead from the start. All parties should show flexibility to give peace a chance under mutual recognition.

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