24/10/2014 12:23 BST | Updated 24/12/2014 05:59 GMT

All the Ambivalence of a Citizenship Ceremony


A British-flag pin offered as a souvenir in the ceremony

Today, I have become a Citizen of the British imperialist state. As if that wasn't bad enough, I also had to swear my allegiance to "Her Majesty", her Heirs and Successors, a bunch of idlers, thieves and expropriators (to use the current lexicon: benefits scroungers!). Offensive, isn't it?

The Citizenship ceremony was small. I knew that all the people present were foreigners but I was a bit surprised at the different nationalities in the mix: South Korea, Cuba, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine, Algeria (myself), Nepal, Afghanistan and Iraq. All "naturalised" into the British mould. The British Empire works in mysterious ways (even Microsoft Word conforms as it asked me to correct empire to Empire).

Some people think this is the innocuous or rather the positive effect of "globalisation" that bring people together regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, race, language or religion. I don't subscribe to this line of thinking. We were in that room (or at least most of us) because in one way or the other, we needed that British passport that will open new doors for us and make our lives easier, lives that were reduced to a status of subalterns, suspects, presumed terrorists given the passports we hold. The hierarchy of passports mirroring the hierarchies and the divisions of the imperialist-capitalist system!

Why some of us did feel the need of obtaining that passport? Surely, it is not about accumulating differently coloured passports. Why are we here (in the UK) in the first place? Some of us wanted a better life, wanted to get a decent job to help their families, others felt marginalised, dispossessed and persecuted in their own countries, some wanted to study in the best universities in the world. In a nutshell, we wanted to come to the dominating rich centres (US, EU and Japan, Samir Amin's Triad) where wealth is accumulating and opportunities being concentrated by dispossessing the dominated "poor" peripheries (our original countries), robbing their resources and allying with a local comprador elites that oppress their own people. But life was not that easy for us when we reached the shores of those centres; we were exploited and not desired, we were (and still are) discriminated against, we were called all names and if we were lucky enough to travel (and get a visa), it was humiliating.

Immigration is part of the legacy of colonialism and the ongoing systemic disparities between the rich north and the poor south (generally speaking) maintained by an imperialist globalisation that enriches an infinitesimal minority (the global elites) at the expense of the majority. Put simply, no one immigrates for fun. I spoke to the Iraqi guy (Kurdish) who said his country has been destroyed and we all know who the culprits were.

Enough talk about British imperialism and let's come back to the ceremony (by the way, the life in the UK test is another glorifying act for the Empire). During the ceremony, you will have to say either the Oath (swearing by Almighty God) or the Affirmation of allegiance to her Majesty the Queen. As a non-believer, I farcically decided to go for the oath, which reminded me of the late Tony Benn's anecdote when he was used to cross his fingers while swearing allegiance to the Queen before taking his seat as an MP. The queen was not at the ceremony but her picture in a frame was there. Her "benevolent" smile and the tune of the anthem were there to remind us of our "subjecthood".

To borrow Benn's words, my true allegiance is with my conscience and beliefs around justice and emancipation and surely not with the oppressors.