Unveiling his plans to help isolated Muslim women in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said migrants who fail language tests after two and a half years in the United Kingdom may be deported.
While his policy’s main focus are Muslims, the British Prime Minister added all women who come to the U.K. on the five-year spousal settlement program would have to take language tests halfway through that time.
The statement comes a day after Cameron highlighted how “backward” attitudes of Muslim men are holding back women of their families.
"This is Britain. In this country, women and girls are free to choose how they live, how they dress and who they love,” he wrote for The Times. “It's our values that make this country what it is, and it's only by standing up for them assertively that they will endure.”
Cameron also announced the launch of a £20m (roughly over US$28 million) language fund in his op-ed for “tens of thousands of Muslim women unable to speak English” in a bit to put an end to the “passive tolerance” of segregated Muslim communities.
Perhaps Cameron means well. The premise of encouraging immigrants to learn a new language for better opportunities is absolutely fine.
But there are multiple problems with the way he wants to achieve this goal.
First, Cameron is essentially threatening to rip families apart. He suggested immigrant women who had children in the U.K. could also face deportation if they fail the language test.
“You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to stay if you’re not improving your language. It is tough but people coming to our country have responsibility too,” he was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
Second, although the British PM said the new immigration policy — which would come in effect this October — doesn’t only apply to Muslim women, he clearly singled them out in his interview with the BBC Radio 4 when he only cited stats for Muslim women — 38,000 — who can't speak English.
Also, the other important reason Cameron wants Muslim women to learn English is to combat terrorism. The connection is vague and, yet again, singles out the Muslim community as the only one potential of carrying out extremist acts.
And last but certainly not least, while it’s commendable that Cameron wants to bring Muslim women out of isolation, he failed to mention other, far more serious issues affecting them currently — such as soaring hate crimes against them in the country.
Especially in London, Islamophobic crimes have risen by 70 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to figures released by the Metropolitan Police last September. While the Met’s statistics didn’t include gender, Tell MAMA, a U.K.-based organization that monitors anti-Muslim attacks, found 60% of the victims were women. Of them, women wearing a face veil were targets of more serious abuse.
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Instead of coming up with half-baked policies in the name of counter-terrorism that could further alienate Muslims, perhaps the British government should focus more on tackling more imminent threats to the religious minority.