Lack of language skills could make Muslims in Britain more vulnerable to the message of extremist groups
GN Staff | January 19, 2016
Muslim women who fail to learn English to a high enough standard could face deportation from Britain. “You can't guarantee you will be able to stay if you are not improving your language,” prime minister David Cameron of UK told BBC radio. “People coming to our country, they have responsibilities too.” Cameron's government estimates that around 190,000 Muslim women in England – about 22 per cent of the total – speak little or no English.
There are estimated to be around 2.7 million Muslims in England out of a total population of some 53 million.
Cameron said some migrants to Britain who cannot pass an English test within 2-1/2 years of arriving may not be allowed to stay, a move aimed at fostering greater integration by Muslim women.
He said while there was no direct causal link between poor English language skills and extremism, those who were not able to integrate into British society were at risk of being more susceptible to extremist ideologies.
He said that poor English skills can leave people more susceptible to the messages of groups like Islamic State (IS). Immigration rules already force spouses to speak English before they come to Britain to live with their partners. But Cameron said that they would also face further tests after two and a half years in the country to make sure their language skills were improving.
Cameron said that a lack of language skills could make Muslims in Britain more vulnerable to the message of extremist groups. “I am not saying there is some sort of causal connection between not speaking English and becoming an extremist, of course not,” he told BBC radio.
“But if you are not able to speak English, not able to integrate, you may find therefore you have challenges understanding what your identity is and therefore you could be more susceptible to the extremist message.” His comments drew criticism from Muslim groups and opposition parties.
Mohammed Shafiq – chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation – which campaigns for better community relations, accused Cameron of disgraceful stereotyping. “David Cameron and his Conservative government are once again using British Muslims as a political football to score cheap points, to appear tough,” he added.
Andy Burnham – home affairs spokesman for the main opposition Labour party – accused Cameron of a clumsy and simplistic approach which was unfairly stigmatising a whole community.
“My parents came to this country with very little English – my mum's English still isn't great, even though she has been to English language classes,” Conservative Party’s ex-co-chair Sayeeda Warsi told BBC Radio. “I think it is lazy and sloppy when we start making policies based on stereotypes which do badly stigmatise communities.”
Shuja Shafi, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain said Cameron's efforts will "fall at the first hurdle" if he were to link language skills and better integration to security, and to single out Muslim women.
"Muslims are only one third of the minority population. Reports suggest a significant proportion of immigrants from Eastern Europe struggle with English," Shafi said in a statement.
Faeeza Vaid, executive director of the charity Muslim Women's Network UK, said it wasn't just a lack of language skills preventing the full integration of Muslim women.
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