Citizenship oath’ proposal sparks controversy in Britain

    A proposal that teenagers of school leaving age in Britain should swear an oath of allegiance to promote a sense of citizenship sparked instant controversy Tuesday, with teachers organizations and Muslim groups rejecting it as an “empty gesture”. The recommendations, contained in a report commissioned by the government, are part of current efforts by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to enhance the “notion of Britishness” at a time when the country is being challenged by terrorism and immigration. Brown is also likely to have in mind continuing aspirations by nationalists in his native Scotland to achieve full independence and thus break the 300-year-union with England, something to which he is passionately opposed. But judging by the initial response, the idea of making young people swear an oath of allegiance – possibly specifically to Queen Elizabeth II – is not what experts believe is required to enhance social cohesion. Muslim groups, teachers and anti-monarchists joined in the chorus of protest that greeted the proposals, drawn up by Peter Henry Goldsmith, the former attorney general, at the request of Brown. “Asking children to swear an allegiance to the Queen will not help them understand the nature of this country; I believe this sort of sham ideas will alienate young people further from society,” said Mohammed Umar, chairman of the Ramadhan Foundation, Britain’s leading Muslim youth organization. He said such ceremonies would remind many older Britons of Pakistani and Indian origin of the days of the empire when school assemblies were devoted to swearing allegiance to the British monarch.

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