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Language for a One Nation society. Why Cameron is right to address the issue of Muslim women not speaking the English language.

New figures have emerged which suggest as many as 22 per cent of Muslim women in the UK speak little or no English. David Cameron has pledged £20 million towards language tuition. Though he claimed that there is no direct link between language and extremism, he suggested that those who don’t speak English may be more susceptible to extremism. In patriarchal societies men may not want women to be able to speak English. Cameron believes if these women know English they are more likely to integrate into society and this will improve the chances of those on visas being able to stay in the UK. Cameron voiced “we will never truly build One Nation unless we are more assertive about our liberal values”.

David Cameron has faced backlash for his comments which are somewhat controversial, but anything anyone says about race, religion or immigration in contemporary society is always seen as a controversial topic, especially in Britain. We should somewhat be applauding Cameron for addressing such an issue. Immigration has long been at the top of a pile of concerns the British public have, particularly in last years general election. With the increasing threat of ISIS there could not be a better time to promote social integration of Muslims in Britain. It is time we try to adopt Muslim groups into society rather than them being marginalised. This is by no means the fault of Britons alone, but also Muslim and other minority communities who refuse to integrate in to British life, learn English and adopt British values. It strikes me how if a British person travels anywhere else in the world – especially to the middle east – they would have to respect the cultural values and behaviours of that country. Simple things like no kissing in public or women having to cover up in public places. Or if that person was to emigrate to Australia they would have to meet a certain educational criteria and bring something beneficial to the country. The point here is that if you move to a country you should make the effort to adapt and understand the language and values of that country, as well as retaining your own. Cameron’s proposal for language tuition symbolically promotes an effort by the British government to support Muslim groups. Though it will be down to Muslims themselves to take up these classes and make the funding worth it.

Cameron’s comments about English tuition counteracting extremism were arguably quite generic when it is only an extremely small minority of Muslims that are involved in extremism. He is not wrong in his comments but he also needs to be careful that he doesn’t shoot himself in the foot and make Muslim women feel further marginalised rather than making them feel more included. The scheme should also include many other people in Britain who don’t speak a word of English, such as workers from the EU.

A budget of £20 million is arguably quite high, it may seem Cameron is simply squandering money if Muslims do not take up the tuition. At a time where student grants have been cut it may seem somewhat unfair that money is being spent on immigrants. There is a recurring theme where politicians seem apprehensive and even scared of proposing action on immigration and the diversity of society. When they do, they face fierce back-lash and claims of being racist. Only time will tell if this strategy is cost effective and makes a difference. In the meantime, maybe people should lay off Cameron and give him a chance to address an issue we all want addressed.

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  • I’m a fan of Gair Rhydd, and I recognise its a place for young aspiring journalists to practice their art, so I hesitated as to whether I should write a negative comment, but this opinion piece is so poor I felt it had to be done. I recognise the pressures of writing under a deadline, while being a full-time student, but sometimes it might be better to not write something than to write something not just wrong, but poorly researched.

    1) 22% of British Muslims don’t speak English. Not a straightforward statistic, and it’d be good to cite a source. The government referenced the 2011 census, but the particular tables re: religion and English language proficiency haven’t been released. There is a strong possibility though that it refers to 22% of British Muslims born outside the UK. When just over half of British Muslims are born in the UK, the figure of 22% could be deeply misleading. The Muslim Council of Britain’s analysis of the census, for example, gives the figure of 6%. And given the entire premise of your opinion piece is based on the fact that English language skills amongst Muslim women in Britain is a problem, you could do with demonstrating your case and not just repeating a government statistic thoughtlessly. Afterall, a journalist who takes the government on its word isn’t exactly a good journalist.

    2) “With the increasing threat of ISIS there could not be a better time to promote social integration of Muslims in Britain. It is time we try to adopt Muslim groups into society rather than them being marginalised.” Perhaps the first step you can take towards promoting the social integration of Muslims in Britain is recognising your readership may very well include Muslims and so a presumptious “we” that excludes Muslims may come across a tad bit like you yourself don’t consider Muslims to be part of British society, or even literate.

    3) “This is by no means the fault of Britons alone, but also Muslim and other minority communities who refuse to integrate in to British life, learn English and adopt British values.”
    a) Don’t you find it slightly ironic that you are saying Muslims refuse to integrate, while literally, in the very same sentence, you’re speaking of Britons and Muslims as two seperate things? There are British Muslims. British is a nationality. Muslim is a religious identity. I can’t believe I have to spell this out to the editor of the Opinions section of a university newspaper.
    b) Who are these minorities who refuse to learn English? Ever met one? Any evidence at all that Muslims or minorities anywhere in the UK “refuse” to learn English? If someone speaks English poorly, it doesn’t follow they have ‘refused’ to learn. Again, your arguments based on this case, so either provide some evidence or change your argument.

    4) “It strikes me how if a British person travels anywhere else in the world – especially to the middle east – they would have to respect the cultural values and behaviours of that country. Simple things like no kissing in public or women having to cover up in public places.” Jeez, not even sure where to start. I mean do you think every women, of every religion, in the Middle-East ‘covers up’ in public? Try not to essentialise and generalise about an area consisting of a dozen countries, millions of people, and countless religions.

    5) “The scheme should also include many other people in Britain who don’t speak a word of English, such as workers from the EU. A budget of £20 million is arguably quite high, it may seem Cameron is simply squandering money if Muslims do not take up the tuition.” Arguably quite high according to what reference? I mean a quick google search would have highlighted that Cameron only recently cut ESOL (English for speakers of other languages) funding which was £45million plus, so this reallocation of a faith specific fund for English language classes is still an overall cut, and given you even concede a wider pot of funding for English classes would be better, your defence of Cameron is looking a bit contradictory.

    6) “There is a recurring theme where politicians seem apprehensive and even scared of proposing action on immigration and the diversity of society. When they do, they face fierce back-lash and claims of being racist.” Yeah, I mean politicians barely even speak about immigration right? It’s not like it’s been frontpage discussion on countless newspapers over the past two years, with several politicians (including of course the entire Ukip party) leading with anti-immigration stances.

    Again, I appreciate how much effort goes into Gair Rhydd, and the pressures of writing under deadlines, but if you ever find yourself thinking “maybe, just maybe, I have no idea what I’m talking about”, perhaps don’t write an opinion piece on that topic.

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