Idea of citizenship

To what extent has the war on terror had an effect on the idea of citizenship? Citizenship describes the membership of an individual to a political society/country. As a citizen of a country, the individual is granted certain rights and privileges such as the right to vote, hold government office(if they choose) and to be protected by the state through the legal system. The rights of the individual will vary according to the country in which citizenship is held. For example, citizens of the United Kingdom are entitled to free public education and health care.

Income support, housing benefit and working tax credits are just some of the privileges granted to the citizens of the United Kingdom. In return, citizens are required not only to abide by the states laws and regulations, but also to adopt an element of patriotism1 and respect for the state. In other words, being a citizen is like being a member of a family, where your primary loyalty is to your family members and you get looked after. Residents in a country aren't always citizens as citizenship must be specifically granted by the state.

Residents (or legal aliens) are granted protection by the state through the police force and legal system but are limited in their participation within the state. For instance in Britain, an alien hasn't the right to vote or hold public office. As stated earlier, the privileges of citizens vary from country to country and one of the most valued privileges of being a citizen (or even an alien) in western societies, is the right to free speech and freedom of expression. Human rights are better protected and laws are in place to protect people's freedom to practice their religion, sexual orientation and cultural differences.

The events of the 11th of September 2001 were paramount in readdressing the idea of citizenship and the rights of individuals. It caused many to reflect upon the fundamental values on which the western civilisation was founded and whether such ideas of citizenship were still valued . The devastating attacks on the world trade centre, the Pentagon, the following incidents in Madrid; Spain and similar terror threats all over Europe has caused the western states to re-evaluate their policies on immigration and the rights of its nationals.

The 9/11 attacks were reportedly the work of the Islamic terrorist the terrorist group Al-quaida whose leader is Osama Bin Laden. This essay aims at exploring the effects of the events of September 11th and the resulting 'war on terror' on citizenship and the idea of social inclusion and exclusion. It will address the emergence of a new found element of patriotism in the west and the worldwide media and social condemnation of not only the perpetrators of this crime against humanity but also the unfortunate questioned loyalty and persecution of Muslim citizens and residents in the west.

One of the main changes in the citizenship and immigration laws of the U. S was influenced by the discovery, through a series of investigation, that the terrorists that high- jacked the planes were resident in the U. S and had taken flying lessons just weeks before the attack. They were not only afforded the opportunity to monitor their target, they were also given the chance to get possibly one of the best flight training. This raised questions about the accessibility and vulnerability of the United States thus

there was little surprise when a month later, the Patriot Act was passed by congress and signed into law by George Bush on the same day. The Act not only granted unlimited access to private property to most federal law enforcement agencies, it also amended the immigration Act thus limiting the entry of foreign nationals to the United States.

The state now had the power to enter and search homes, businesses, and other privately owned properties without warning or explanation. It also granted the law enforcers powers to tap phones, check e-mail messages and monitor internet websites people visited. The amendment of the immigration act meant the refusal of entry not only to those who had connections with terrorist groups but also to those that funded, supported or were the spouse or child of such individuals. According to Strauss, 'the (American) 'courts have long recognised the power to expel aliens as a fundamental sovereign attribute… An alien whose presence in the United States has no colour of lawfulness… has little claim on either agency of courts for relief'.

2 It can be argued that The Patriot Act, to say the least, is a dangerous step towards totalitarianism for the citizens of the U. S. The basic fundamental rights to freedom of expression and the right to have ones opinions, beliefs and political preference is being seen as unpatriotic whilst the right to privacy is being greatly compromised. It therefore becomes a conflict between governmental supremacy versus fundamental rights.

The creation of the U. N, deriving from the Nation States after the Second World War, was created to create a forum for all countries to address issues in a peaceful and democratic way. Its intention was to prevent the events of the first and second world wars from being repeated. Its intention was not only to create peace between the countries, but an underlying theme was to avoid the 'excessive patriotism'- something that led Nazi leader Adolf Hitler to want to create a racially pure Germany by killing the Jews and other non-Aryan races. His invasion and colonisation of surrounding nations such as France and Poland, and the elimination of people whom he believed to be 'Germany's enemies', highlighted Hitler's excessively patriotic view. Sentiments of which, began to surface on the face of America in light of the terrorist attack.

Although Hitler's extremity was for the expansion of his country, Bush's is arguable for the safety of his. One of the benefits that was meant to come fro the creation of the UN was the reduction of over patriotism. The uniting of many nations was to create peace and find a common ground between the countries. The 9/11 attacks encouraged what the world has been dreading for years after the world war; over-patriotism and subsequent conflict. Is this citizenship gone too far? Although not at the same scale as the world wars, the subsequent war on Iraq can be seen as affirming this.

It has been argued by the media and other critics of the war on Iraq argue that the war was simply for the attainment of oil from Iraq and if this indeed true, then it correlates with the idea of America putting itself and the needs of its people before everyone else and ignoring the basic rules of a 'just war' as outlined by Thomas Aquianas. On the other hand, if it was for the removal of a president that possessed weapons which he threatened to use on the west, it still shows an element of over-patriotism as America didn't wait for proof before embarking on conflict… against the advise of the U. N.