I am assuming David Cameron’s ‘plans to “help” more Muslim women to speak fluent English’ were supposed to come across as a positive move? How can this education programme be seen as anything but positive when learning the country’s language is such an important tool for empowerment and social inclusion? Several commentators have made this case. Haroon Moghul for example supports the initiative as it would help Muslim women ‘become that much more politically successful and economically mobile. It’s discrimination, sure, but a positive kind.’ Similarly, Anna Rhodes argues that ‘Deportation after a period of time if you do not learn the language is a harsh, but effective, way to ensure that people are gaining the skills that they require to live and contribute to British society.’ So, why the backlash?
Well to begin with, an initiative aimed at one section of the community alongside a threat of deportation doesn’t help. After all, Cameron did not say “migrants,” he specifically singled out “Muslim women.” This all comes across as quite racist and marginalizing and it is debatable whether or not English language skills (or the lack of them) provides any causal effect on combatting extremism. Sayeeda Warsi, a Tory peer and former party co-chairman, noted that ‘“evidence suggests gang culture, Islamophobia, [and] responses to foreign policy are greater drivers of radicalisation” than failure to learn English.’
I believe that those arguing that it is a good thing have missed the point about how this has been presented. Charities such as JANTrust have been working with women to improve their language skills and specialize in integration into society. Were they consulted? Were any Muslim women who work within this area consulted on the effectiveness of this type of initiative on preventing extremism? The issue with the headline and statements isn’t about whether learning language is a good thing, it is about targeting a specific group with a threat of deportation in a show of combatting extremism, with no evidence presented that language skills have any link to extremism in the first place. The stereotypical representation that is repeatedly presented by the media and politicians reinforces exactly the reason why the virtual exhibition Muslima, which seeks to showcase Muslim women’s art and amplify their voices, involved a study to analyse the depiction of Muslim women in the media in ‘a world that’s grown accustomed to denying the rich diversity of Muslim women’s thoughts and contributions…and reducing them into an easy stereotype of an oppressed group’
To read the full article visit Muslimah Media Watch