Comment: David Cameron’s plans for Muslim women are the height of hypocrisy

By peddling untrue figures the PM is creating a conveniently divisive narrative

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The Clash of Civilisations is underway, and David Cameron is our knight in shining armour. That’s the message of our PM’s latest policy announcement today. Cameron’s focus on Muslim women learning English looks good on the surface, but it’s undergirded with threats, lies and stereotyping that could end up harming the people it’s purporting to help.

Let’s start with the fact that Cameron had no problem axing the budget for non-English speakers to learn the local language (known as English for speakers of other languages, ESOL). As part of the Tories’ swingeing cuts package, they did away with the £45 million for English classes, including peoples’ access to ESOL (estimates suggested around 47 colleges and 16,000 learners would be affected).

To jump in now and blame a lack of English skills on what he sees as an homogeneous ‘Muslim community’ is the height of hypocrisy.

Then there are the unreliable numbers. Cameron put on show his faux concern for women of colour by claiming that 22 per cent of Muslim women do not have good English and that they need to be empowered. But a report from the Muslim Council of Britain last year found that only 6 per cent of all Muslims said they are struggling to speak good English.

While it’s true that your life chances are severely limited if you don’t have a good grasp of English and we sorely need more funding for these language lessons, by amping up the figures, Cameron is attempting to create a climate of hostility towards Muslim men and infantilise Muslim women.

This much is clear in his implication that male dominance and abuse is essentially a ‘Muslim’ phenomenon. As Cameron himself wrote, oppression of women isn’t ‘unique to Muslim communities‘. Misogynists from all walks of life happily give all different kinds of justifications for subjugating women: this is about patriarchy, not Islam.

But quickly brushing over this, Cameron has focussed his policy solely on the ‘Muslim community’ because he’s intent on setting up a doomsday picture in which the so-called Clash of Civilisations is just around the corner.

Just look at his use of the word ‘menfolk’ to describe Muslim men. It conjures ideas of backward, antiquated eras – you know, places where sexism resides. Then he accuses these same men of ‘backward attitudes’, while he cuts money for domestic violence centres that women of all religions, races and ethnicities use, and threatens to deport people who don’t learn English.

Also note how Cameron barely acknowledges the multitude of ways in which Muslim women – some of whom may not have a great grasp of English – have contributed to British society. Muslim women simply become victims, Muslim men are their oppressors and David Cameron is the saviour – a clear ‘us vs them’ scenario.

By aiming all his fire at Muslims the PM has been able to make the spurious claim that without assimilating to his version of Britain and speaking fluent English, Muslims are more likely to ‘slide towards radicalisation’. Here the division between the backwards Muslims and progressive Britons is established. Meanwhile, there seems to be no space for Muslim women to speak for themselves.

No one – bar the David Cameron of two years ago – is saying that people shouldn’t be given the opportunity to learn English – although it is frustrating for people all over the world that because English is the international language of communication, most of the 761,000 English migrants living in Spain aren’t forced to get a good grasp of the native language.

Neither are concerns about Muslim women’s oppression, just like all other women’s oppression, unfounded. But what’s going on here is dog-whistle politics at its most dangerous and, sadly, cleverest.

The ‘integration’ Cameron says he wants to achieve is a woolly idea. Too often it’s used to stamp out the vibrant difference that – believe it or not – has a positive impact on community cohesion. Plus, Cameron’s idea of integration doesn’t include protecting people who are attacked for the colour of their skin or for wearing a hijab.

In the prime minister’s strategy there’s no money to deal with the growing Islamophobia Muslim women are subjected to on a regular basis, and that he is most likely fuelling with his divisive politics. Last year Islamophobic crimes rose by 70 per cent in London, and 60 per cent of the people attacked were women.

Though he made reference to it in his article in the Times, while Cameron was waxing lyrical on the importance of empowering women during his media rounds today, this worrying trend didn’t get a mention.

By peddling untrue figures, using loaded language and blaming the Muslim community for their lack of access to the English classes his government took away, Cameron is creating a clever but horrendously divisive narrative that works pretty well for him. It’s of no bother to the prime minister that he’s throwing the Muslim community under the bus and making British society a worse place for it.

Maya Goodfellow is a columnist for Labour List and Media Diversified. Follow her on Twitter

45 Responses to “Comment: David Cameron’s plans for Muslim women are the height of hypocrisy”

  1. Billo Qasira

    Labour covered up the mass grooming and rape of non Muslim girls by Muslim men for decades. That is where screaming about ‘Islamophobia’ whenever problems with multiculturalism are raised leads us. This is what Maya Goodfellow wants. The British people see Labour and the Left’s complicity in this and want to vomit.

  2. jaggafeen .

    why only muslim women and not other language speakers also? proof that we have a islamophobic bigot in power.

  3. Dan Smith

    To correct you, Labour wasn’t a left wing party under Tony Blair. Blair was a Thatcherite just as Cameron and friends are. Your comment suggests you think its OK for Muslim men to groom and rape Muslim girls by the way…

  4. Chris

    The old mantra of the left “it wasn’t us”, ffs grow up and accept responsibility.

  5. Steve Doran

    Interesting that very little attention is ever given to British born white people that have difficulty with written or spoken English. There are a large number of people that have difficulty with reading, writing and speaking, due to a range of factors – lack of support and understanding of disability and learning difficulties, poorly funded education or outside pressures impacting education, a lack of available support materials etc. All of these things impact the individual, and the community. All of these are, at least partly, within the governments responsibility. Yet the prime minister chose not to discuss those with difficulties with English. He could have focused on the issue rather than the person, which would have made way more sense. I can only assume that he is deliberately making this statement to those he sees as ‘other’, and that he sees those people as having different duties and responsibilities as human beings. This isn’t about helping anyone. Its about assigning blame.

  6. Billo Qasira

    Grow up. the no true Scotsman fallacy doesn’t work any more. Labour councils and the Left covered up mass decades long organised rape of ‘kaffir’ girls by racist Muslim men. And now Lefties squeal over common sense proposals over integration and extremism. The vile moral rancidity and evil of the multiculturalist Left is going to be the effective death of you as a movement.

  7. GhostofJimMorisson

    But a report from the Muslim Council of Britain last year found that only 6 per cent of all Muslims said they are struggling to speak good English.

    The Muslim Council of Great Britain – hardly a reliable source. Indeed, one study found that only 6% of Muslims felt the MCB represented their views, and the majority felt the organisation was ‘out of touch’ Its links with extremism and support for Hamas are well known. (source for survey http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/30/shuja-shafi-head-muslim-council-britain-interview)

  8. Bradley B.

    Switching argument to ”women of colour” is not acceptable.

  9. JAMES MCGIBBON

    Muslims are forbidden to integrate. The Koran is a military document. Where have all the Middle East Christians gone. It looks like Israel will be the last democracy standing in the Middle East where the various Christians can worship.

  10. Rowdie111

    Get a life….who cares any more what race, colour, creed people are….it is what they do or don’t do what it is all about…..and if the baddies happen to be of one race, one colour, one creed…then who cares…..it should be put right and not allow those who don’t want it to be put right to defend themselves by using the race card !

  11. Rowdie111

    Have you been round Bradford, Leicester…..etc.

  12. Bradley B.

    Are you drunk? Or angry for some reason?

  13. Rowdie111

    The biggest problem is with Muslim women…by all means tackle others also. But if people live in the UK they should speak the bloody language !

  14. Rowdie111

    “Switching argument to ‘ women of colour ‘….does a persons colour bother you ?

  15. Kossaki

    This is exactly what I call ‘IGNORANCE’ !

  16. Kossaki

    So do you’ve a reliable source?

    btw whether it’s 6|% or 60% how can this be related to radicalisation? Those who went to Syria and joined ISIS speak only one language which is English! and their parents speak English too. In fact some white, native English went to Syria… Shall they also join an ESOL course?!!!

  17. Kossaki

    Very true!

  18. Kossaki

    Have you ever been abroad? Have you seen the large British communities who were born and bred in the Gulf and they can barely say ‘Hello’ in Arabic?!!

  19. Kossaki

    Very true!!

  20. Kossaki

    Thank you very much Maya for sharing your critical and deep thinking. I can’t agree with you more on every point you mentioned.

  21. Steve Doran

    Have you any evidence that Muslim women are the biggest problem? Or is this you falling for the prejudice that Cameron is subtly spreading…?

  22. Swift John

    He’s a detached lunatic, things are gonna get bad for us all, unless we wake up to their lies.

  23. Swift John

    Good people helping each other, during the floods where were you?

  24. Swift John

    Wake up.

  25. JAMES MCGIBBON

    That is what I call ignorance. GORDON Brown was promoting that English should be taught to all immigrants entering Britain although in my opinion they should be taught at their own expense before entering the UK. And there is not such a physical condition as islamaphobia. Probably made up by some studid far leftie.

  26. Sid

    Integration into our liberal, mostly secular, democratic culture is very important.

    The development of segregated separate communities must not be tollerated.

  27. Sid

    Exactly. Islam is incompatible with our normal British cultural values. Integrate or leave !!!

  28. Kossaki

    Yes, I worked in Bradford. Everyone in the UK shall learn English, not British Muslim Women only!!

  29. Kossaki

    I think Cameron is enhancing Islamophobia when he relates the issue of Muslim women not speaking English to radicalisation. I agree with you everyone in the UK shall learn English, and btw those British Muslim women Cameron referring to are not necessarily immigrants. Some white British, born and bred here, have been radicalised and joined ISIS. English is their mother language, so it’s here where money needs to be invested. I believe we shall invest in educating British youth about Islam instead of them following random radicals who only represent themselves!

  30. JAMES MCGIBBON

    If you let mad mental religious fundamentalists into your country then expect you may be killed.

  31. Kossaki

    Let them?!! They’re British born and bred!

  32. Lamia

    Have you seen the large British communities who were born and bred in the Gulf and they can barely say ‘Hello’ in Arabic?

    Where are these large British communities ‘who were born and bred in the Gulf’?

    You’ve invented them.

  33. Lamia

    Let’s start with the fact that Cameron had no problem axing the budget for non-English speakers to learn the local language (known as English for speakers of other languages, ESOL).

    Why should the British public who were born here have to pay for other people who come to this country to learn the language?

    If you (and others) think immigration of non-English speakers is a great idea, then you should pay for them to learn English.

    Cameron put on show his faux concern for women of colour by claiming that 22 per cent of Muslim women do not have good English

    Cheap and dishonest attempt to smear Cameron as racist.

    although it is frustrating for people all over the world that because English is the international language of communication, most of the 761,000 English migrants living in Spain aren’t forced to get a good grasp of the native language.

    Really? People all over the world are ‘frustrated’ about English ex-pats not learning Spanish?

    1. Where is your evidence for this worldwide frustration?
    2. What, in any case, has it to do with people speaking English in Britain?

    Plus, Cameron’s idea of integration doesn’t include protecting people who are attacked for the colour of their skin or for wearing a hijab.

    Are you suggesting that Cameron opposes – or is indeed preventing – the application of existing laws to bring to justice those who attack hijabbed women or people with dark skins? Where is your evidence for this?

    Last year Islamophobic crimes rose by 70 per cent in London,

    And there were also massive rises in antisemitic attacks and homophobic attacks. No interest from anti-hate ‘activists’ on those, though. I wonder why.

    But a report from the Muslim Council of Britain last year found that only 6 per cent of all Muslims said they are struggling to speak good English.

    You are citing the MCB as a reliable source? Nice bunch of hatemongers you’ve picked there for ‘evidence’ for your article about Cameron’s supposed hatemongering. Do you share their enthusiasm for boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day too?

  34. jj

    Think he meant what the article states, ‘Muslim’ now means ‘women of colour’ in the ‘journalist’ eyes, that’s divisive because Muslims can be any race, the journalist is attempting to make this a racial argument.

  35. JAMES MCGIBBON

    Naw they are muslims living in Britain! Do count the amount of countries the muslim are killing in throughout the world as well plotting. There never seems to be day that goes by when another lot of the idiots are arrested. Trump is right. Well done Donald for saying what had to be said.

  36. Lamia

    I’ve googled it, and while there are expatriate Brits working in the UAE, they are – obviously, and by definition – not “born and bred in the Gulf”. Nor are they citizens of those countries. They are highly skilled people working in the gulf because of the skills shortage in Arab countries.

    You did indeed invent these mythical ‘large British communities who were born and bred in the Gulf’, and clearly haven’t a clue what you are talking about.

  37. Kossaki

    I lived in Dhahran, Saudi and many of the neighbourhood residents are Brits. They’ve been there for decades and none of them speak the local language. Maybe if you travel more you’d know. Spain is just another example. Even those work in the UAE have been there for a few decades and their kids grew up there. They would hardly speak an Arabic word.

  38. Lamia

    I lived in Dhahran, Saudi and many of the neighbourhood residents are
    Brits. They’ve been there for decades and none of them speak the local
    language.

    Fine. By your own admission they are residents, not citizens. That is not the same as saying that there are ‘large British communities who were born and bred in the gulf‘, which is obvious nonsense.

    There are only 26,000 British residents total living in Saudi. How many children of British residents have actually been born and grown up there? A few hundred? A thousand?

    Certainly not tens of thousands, let alone hundreds of thousands, or millions.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_diaspora

  39. GhostofJimMorisson

    Bradford yes. What’s your point?

  40. GhostofJimMorisson

    I clearly gave my source at the end of my post. Helps if you read to the end.

  41. GhostofJimMorisson

    That’s not what he was suggesting. This issue is about language, integration and culture. By switching the argument to skin colour, the author was making this a race issue, which it clearly is not.

  42. Lamia

    Your comment suggests you think its OK for Muslim men to groom and rape Muslim girls by the way…

    No, it doesn’t.

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