New UK Language Policy Aims to Lessen Extremist Threat
Thu, February 11, 2016
(Photo © Danny Man / flickr)
British Prime Minister David Cameron recently announced plans for a $29-million English-language policy directed at Muslim women. In said policy, Muslim female immigrants will receive assistance in learning English, and, starting in October, “people coming to the UK on a five-year spousal visa will have to take a test after two-and-a-half years to show they are making efforts to improve their English.”
In defense of this new policy, Cameron argued there is "a connection with combating extremism," and improving English is important "to help people become more resilient against the messages of Daesh [ISIS].”
He also argued segregation allows "appalling practices" such as female genital mutilation and forced marriage to exist.
However, many commentators are skeptical of this strategy. One such skeptic, Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, tweeted: “Cameron’s simplistic, headline-driven approach to extremism risks unfairly stigmatising a whole community, thereby making the problem worse.” Adding that “There is a real danger that it could end up driving further radicalisation, rather than tackling it.”
The thought being, presumably, that if these immigrant women (and perhaps their husbands too) feel stigmatized, this may kindle motivation to join an opposing force like ISIS.
Not all analysts fear this outcome, though. Allison Pearson, a journalist for The Telegraph, states: “Incredibly, it is easier in 2016 for a Muslim to lead a life broadly untouched by English language and culture than it was 30 years ago. And that really matters at a time when home-grown terrorism is such a threat. This week, yet more British Muslims (four students this time) were on trial for allegedly plotting drive-by shootings against police and soldiers.”
If these immigrants never feel like the UK is their country, and instead continue to distance themselves from it (e.g.. refusing to learn English), then, the argument goes, it will be much easier for them to join extremist groups like ISIS that also views the Western world as other.
It remains unclear as to whether or not the new policy will be effective in preventing ISIS recruitment in the UK, at least in the immediate future. But, at the very least, it should help new Muslim immigrant women to find their voices -- which, eventually, could very well lead to the creation of a protective barrier from extremist teachings with newly-assimilated and Western-educated women refusing to be victims of oppression once again.
This report offers both sides of the argument and includes a comment from PM Cameron: