Advanced search

Cameron's comments about Muslim women's knowledge of English and links to Islamic Extremism

(42 Posts)
alteredimages Tue 19-Jan-16 08:02:59

What do you all think about the plans David Cameron made yesterday to allocate funds to teach Muslim women English?

My feelings about this are very mixed. On the one hand, I do absolutely believe that speaking English is a prerequisite for being a part of UK society, and having lived somewhere where I did not have a good grasp of the language I appreciate what a barrier that is, not only for the individual, but also for their children and other dependants in terms of creating a social network, following progress at school, getting out and about etc. I also agree that not speaking English in the UK leaves a person vulnerable to exploitation and unable to live a full life.

On the other hand, I completely fail to see how this will combat extremism. How many non English speaking foreign born female extremists have we heard about lately? I would bet my bottom dollar that there is bugger all link between lack of knowledge of English and extremism. I am not sure about the figures for the UK, but in France extremism is specifically linked to French native speaker second generation immigrants who were brought up in France or Europe and usually have a history of petty crime and were previously not religious, and ethnically French converts. Very few first generation immigrants have been involved. There was a really interesting article about it here and independently I have been told the same by friends who work in security.

I also think that if we are going to publicly fund teaching people English, then it should be made available to a much wider section of people who need it.

What do you think?

ProfessorPreciseaBug Tue 19-Jan-16 08:10:28


Well put. I think we are dealing with two different issues. A religion that glorifies suicide as a means of killing and the inability to integrate if you don't have a grasp of the local language.

Whilst he may have an underlying point it was badly expressed by confusing the two issues.

ProfessorPreciseaBug Tue 19-Jan-16 08:22:31

As to who pays for language lessons,,,, ?
If you choose to move to a place that speaks another language, it is up to you to learn the language. If you are a migrant, that is simply part of the cost of moving. If you are a refugee, you have been given succour in time of need, play your part and return the help by helping yourself to learn the local language. Take part in the country where you chose to ask for help by adopting the customs of your new home. After all, the reason it is better here is because our customs have delivered a better place to live in.... otherwise you would not have choosen to come here and would have gone somewhere else.

Obviously that is not very compromising, but we have enough social issues that we need to deal with for our community such as the thousands who have been flooded and the thousands facing a difficult future in Port Talbot.

Egosumquisum Tue 19-Jan-16 10:15:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bluebolt Tue 19-Jan-16 11:34:36

I interpretated that the language and the integration would strengthen the women to be more of an influence against their children being radicalised. In the same way mothers campaign against gang culture and knife culture. Cameron's statement was appalling and his wording was horrific. I met a woman five years ago who had no language and used her DD as an interpreter. We both had disabled sons, due to this she had to learn English and now she has transformed and can go to support groups and coffee meets up by herself.

alteredimages Tue 19-Jan-16 18:28:34

Thanks for your responses Professor, Ego and bluebolt. For the purposes of full disclosure, I am a white British convert to Islam married to a Muslim born man from the Middle East. I have lived in the UK, the Middle East and France and with my dodgy French have experienced being visibly different and not having the language skills to communicate fully. I have also seen how women can be marginalized, especially if they are not economically active, so am really keen to see access to English learning for women who haven't been able to access it. I just don't think that it should be exclusive to a specific community or sex.

The extremism thing pisses me off not because I am offended but because it makes me realize how far from understanding the crisis of people joining ISIS and other terrorist groups the government and other public bodies are. Joining ISIS is just as big a rejection of parents and the older generation of UK Muslims who run the mosques as it is of Britain and wider Western society. If this is their big idea to solve the problem then God help us all.

The cynic in me thinks that extremism was just dropped in there at the last minute to sell the idea to the public who otherwise might not welcome money being spent in a time of unprecedented cuts to public spending.

I also wonder how the teaching is going to work. If you have spent some time in the UK and haven't learned English then that probably means that you are either painfully shy or someone in your family is preventing you from fully participating in society. If your husband won't let you leave the house, he won't change his mind because the government have sent someone to the mosque or to the school. If you live in a community where you can get by using your native language you are going to need a bigger incentive to learn English or a disincentive to remain unable to use it.

Professor I, obviously, don't agree Islam glorifies suicide as a method of murder but I do agree that Islam is in crisis and that a lack of leadership, critical thought, and willingness to develop has led to intellectual and spiritual stagnation and allowed violent and repugnant interpretations to proliferate and spread. Change needs to happen from within and quickly.

This is another thread, but it also struck me now how much Cameron's statement reinforces the idea of Muslim as necessarily foreign and other. That I really do object to and I feel sad sometimes when I notice that I always have to justify or accept that I have somehow surrendered my Britishness. I feel like this especially when I see comments on news stories about how all Muslims should just leave, or how 'my ancestors have lived on these islands since the 11th century and we have more right to this country.' Well, mine too. Where am I supposed to go?

Egosumquisum Tue 19-Jan-16 18:33:46

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

sandrapanda Tue 19-Jan-16 18:54:35

Radicalisation happens mostly online, not through mosques or mothers with a poor grasp of English. I'm Muslim and my mum hardly spoke any English, came over here in the 70's brought up 5 children who are all educated, employed and contribute positively to society through our various jobs. Neither my siblings or myself are extremists or susceptible to radicalisation whatsoever.

I think it's great that there are more opportunities to learn English as there was little opportunity in the 70/80's but to link it to preventing extremism is rather ridiculous.

Egosumquisum Tue 19-Jan-16 18:56:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WidowWadman Tue 19-Jan-16 19:02:41

So first the Tories' slash the budget for ESOL lessons, then they have the nerve to pretend that the allocation of what is less than half of the original funding is a new drive to make life better for those who had their lessons cut in the first place?

And then this superb (not) idea that threatening women with deportation will somehow empower them. Or that having their mothers deported would make anyone less likely to be radicalised.

The whole announcement was cackhanded dogwhistle politics which just gives fuel to the rising islamophobia, incidentally Muslim women are the main victims of the increase islamophobic hate crimes at the moment.

I'm all for supporting people in learning English (and the requirement for passing an English language test before being able to apply for citizenship is nothing new), but the way Cameron has gone about it is shameful.

DeoGratias Tue 19-Jan-16 19:06:22

Might be better to force people to pay for their own language. There are not plans to turf out grannies who have lived here for years, just people (from all countries) who do not learn English in their first 2.5 years.

It is going to help combat sexism and homophobia and male control of women a lot more importantly that the few extremists. It will help women. It is a good thing.

As ever Cameron is right on this.

alteredimages Tue 19-Jan-16 19:16:56

Unfortunately being able to speak English is not a cure for misogyny and homophobia.

No one is saying that learning English is not necessary, it just seems that how those lessons will be delivered has been poorly thought out and unlikely to achieve significant results, and also that there is no link between not knowing English and extremism.

Chipstick10 Tue 19-Jan-16 19:17:19

I wouldn't dream of migrating to another country and not try to learn the language. It's beyond cheeky, and who is paying for this?

firebranding Tue 19-Jan-16 19:17:28

Cameron is being divisive, and playing into the Islamophobia that is prevalent currently.

Islam no more glorifies death than Christianity does.

I am married to a Muslim from the middle east. We had non English speaking guests over at the weekend and the main topics of conversation were food, and our kids educations. Pretty much the same as all my other guests.

If we really want to look at divisions in society, we should start with the elite group of Eton/Oxbridge-educated millionaires that seem to run both the politics and the media in this country.

Egosumquisum Tue 19-Jan-16 19:26:02

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

CalmYoBadSelf Tue 19-Jan-16 19:38:32

I think I read somewhere that one of the reasons they were so keen to educate women in certain overseas countries was that educated women provide a stabilising force which promotes peace. For example, a woman in a country where there is armed conflict who cannot communicate outside her own family and immediate community is largely powerless but women who can communicate more widely are more able to gain education and have more power to stop their sons and husbands becoming involved. I've probably explained that very badly but that was the gist of the argument so maybe he is extrapolating from that kind of idea

Personally I think the two things are unrelated in this country but educating and empowering women, who are often brought over here as brides who are isolated by their inability to communicate, can only be a good thing

firebranding Tue 19-Jan-16 19:56:35

Many of the women who are part of the current group of refugees are fleeing hell. Speaking English is somewhat lower on their list of priorities than being somewhere they are safe from rape, persecution, etc.

Justanotherlurker Tue 19-Jan-16 21:49:03

I don't think this going to be specifically targeted at recent refugees firebranding, unless you have a source?

I thought you had a couple of years to show progress?

I agree with Calm, I read something a while back that was similar, in that educating the women made a substantial difference to the whole family, I don't think it will get totally rid of extremism as a lot of the recent extremists seem to be 2nd/3rd generation but it will help, even if it is being able to monitor web access etc.

As a policy point though I think it's good, Muslim women are ~60% for being on out of work benefits.

ProfessorPreciseaBug Wed 20-Jan-16 08:06:43

Altered wrote,
I also wonder how the teaching is going to work. .......... If your husband won't let you leave the house, ......... If you live in a community where you can get by using your native language you are going to need a bigger incentive to learn English or a disincentive to remain unable to use it...

As a native born Englishman, who has German , Scottish and probably French blood, I find the above comments very upsetting. It is not acceptable in this country for a husband to forbid his wife to go out the house. Women have the right to vote and work and any man who prevents his wife from leaving the house is abusing those fundamantal rights. Such behaviour has no place in England. I suggest if a muslim husband wants to behave like that, he should take his family to a place where such unacceptable practice is the norm. I feel sad for his wife and family.

And if you live in a ghetto where you can get by without speaking
English, you are not becoming part of the country where you are camped. In which case, why did you come here?

If you chose to live in England because England offers better opportunity and supports you when you need help, that is because of English culture and history is better than the place you left behind. Embrace it, become part of England and add to our rich culture by leaving your old country behind and
I will welcome you. However, if you live in a separate community and don't speak my language, you add nothing to this wonderful country. I don't want you here.

Of course the real problem is that whilst Images can read this, the people who need to read it can't because they can't read English.

ProfessorPreciseaBug Wed 20-Jan-16 08:08:46


You are quite right.

Educate a man and he can work.
Educate a woman and you educate a whole family.

kesstrel Wed 20-Jan-16 09:34:22

According to some Muslim journalists I heard on Radio 4, part of the motivation for some young people joining ISIS/becoming radicalised is the sense of being torn between two different worlds/identities, and the desire to fill they fully belong and "fit in" somewhere.

If the mother of a family can't speak English, and the English-speaking father is working all hours (because she can't because she doesn't speak English), then that kind of two distinct worlds dilemma is likely to be heightened, because the non-English speaking mother will cling to the only cultural identity she knows, and associate primarily with women who are in the same boat. This facilitates the world of "home" ending up dramatically opposed to the world of "school", and the psychological stress this places on children will be greater.

DeoGratias Wed 20-Jan-16 09:55:12

Prof, the disincentive for not learning it is after 2.5 years we turf you out of the UK. I suspect that might well persuade some to learn the language.

A good fwe of the 1000 or so we have sent to ISIS from here though are from families where the mothers are not even covered and the child's "rebellion" is to adopt fundamentalist Islam.

That does not mean we should not encourage everyone in the UK to adopt our values and learn our language however. It is well known that educating women and giving them economic power brings all sorts of benefits.

cdtaylornats Wed 20-Jan-16 11:43:23

If you can't speak English in this society it makes it very hard to be heard. If a mother cannot speak English and suspects her child is being radicalised it's one step harder for her to get help if she needs a translator, and its one more person you need to trust in a transaction that could be fraught with difficulties.

I get the feeling if Tories announced free unicorns for all the first reaction here would be "bastards, where the fuck do they think I'm going to keep a unicorn".

dog123 Wed 20-Jan-16 13:05:07

Allison Pearson in The Telegraph today.

AnotherEffingOrangeRevel Wed 20-Jan-16 13:23:24

I suspect that people not speaking English is a threat to the manipulative power of our mainstream media. That's one good reason for those in power to want to make sure as many people are English-speakers as possible.

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, watch threads, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now »

Already registered? Log in with: