"Associating Muslim women’s lack of language with radicalism is preposterous"

Posted by ap507 at Jan 21, 2016 10:15 AM |
Dr Saeeda Shah discusses David Cameron's latest announcements on language-learning
"Associating Muslim women’s lack of language with radicalism is preposterous"

Dr Saeeda Shah

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About seven months after the Department for Business cut funding by £45 million for 47 colleges teaching ESOL - in spite of the warning that it would make it harder for people coming to Britain with no/little English to integrate - Mr Cameron offers less than half of it for teaching language but with a piquant touch: "If you're not able to speak English, you're not able to integrate … and you could be more susceptible to the extremist message that comes from Daesh”.

Everyone would agree that it is good that the government realised sooner than later the importance of providing free language lessons. However, the way it comes through, it sounds more like a media campaign to increase the sales or at best a political statement to score points for fighting radicalisation rather than a serious policy initiative from the head of a government in the interest of marginalised groups.

Mr Cameron fumbled to explain that this provision was for all women but the mention of Daesh clearly linked the provision to Muslim women. The implied link between English language acquisition and radicalisation is not only simplistic and presumptuous but also extremely damaging for community relations and for the very purposes of integration. Surely the Prime Minister understands that it is not just lack of language among Muslim women but lack of opportunities and discrimination against all Muslims that is damaging integration and breeding frustrations specifically among the Muslim youth – boys and girls.

Statistics show that a high percentage of Muslim girls and boys go in higher education but after qualifying they are marginalized and discriminated in employment and social mobility. The Prime Minister would remember his own speech of 7th October when he admitted that even if job applicants ‘have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names’, specifically Muslim-sounding names.

Even if the Prime Minister’s statistics are correct, these Muslim women with little/no English are mostly engaged in child-care and looking after homes/families to free male members for extended and awkward hours work in take-away jobs, taxi-driving and self-employed work. They certainly need English, like all other ethnic communities living in the UK, to make their everyday life easy. They also need language to understand their rights within their homes and in the wider society, but not to control extremism and not because of threats of deportation.

Associating Muslim women’s lack of language with radicalism is preposterous if not downright ignorance. Is it to divert attention from the serious issues of discrimination facing Muslim community and the barriers to their socio-economic engagement that the policy pundits have suggested this new slant on free language lessons?

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