David Cameron warns Muslim women ‘must learn English’

British prime minister accused of ‘lazy’ stance on counter-extremism

British prime minister David Cameron has been accused of a “lazy and misguided” approach after warning that Muslim women who fail to improve their English language skills could be deported.

Cameron warned that not speaking the language adequately could make people “more susceptible” to the recruitment messages of groups such as the Islamic State (IS) — though there was no “causal link”.

Cameron faced a backlash from Muslim groups and former Cabinet minister Sayeeda Warsi for linking the issue of English language skills to extremism.

Cameron said it was not acceptable that some women in the UK were not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative and faced sex-segregated school governors meetings.

A £20m language fund is being set up to help end what he called the “passive tolerance” of separate communities which left many Muslim women facing discrimination and social isolation.

Cameron visited a mosque and a project for Bangladeshi women in Leeds to highlight his new proposals.

During the visit, he said: “There are some 40,000 women in our country who really don’t speak any English at all and, perhaps altogether, some 190,000 with very poor English.

“I think it’s quite right to say to people who come to our country that there are many rights that you have here — it’s a fantastic country to live in — but there are also obligations that we should put on people who come to our country, and chief amongst them should be obligations to learn English because then you can integrate, you can take advantage of the opportunities here and you can help us to build the strong country that we want.”

Asked about the threat of deportation, Cameron said: “After two and a half years, halfway through the programme of getting settlement, they should be improving their English, and if they don’t do that then they can’t be guaranteed to be able to go to the full stage and retain their visa.”

Warsi, a former Tory chairwoman and the first female Muslim Cabinet minister, welcomed the new money for language teaching, but condemned the way in which the measure was announced.

“This lazy and misguided linking, and what I saw once again as stereotyping of British Muslim communities, I felt took away from what was a positive announcement,” said Warsi.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said: “There are 3m Muslims in this country and the prime minister chooses to focus on a very small minority of extremists when clearly the majority of British Muslims reject extremism.

“The best way to confront it is to build support within Muslims and support the work done across the country, and not lashing out and denigrating Muslims.”


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