In a desperate effort to stop British Muslim women from joining ISIS and becoming radicalized, British Prime Minister David Cameron, announced a series of political measures that would only further marginalize and ostracize Muslim women living in the United Kingdom.
Cameron and his right-wing government plan to ban Muslim women from wearing the face veil in public British institutions, because it allegedly does not represent British liberal values. Unlike France and Belgium, where the Islamic face veil is completely banned, Cameron emphasized that the British ban would only prohibit Muslim women from wearing the niqab or burqa in public institutions like courts and schools, as if that doesn’t infringe upon freedom of religion.
White male British lawmakers are undermining religious liberty under the pretext of national security to exploit Muslim women’s bodies as a political tool and limit their right to self-sovereignty and religious freedom.
Like other European countries, Britain is proposing a policy that impacts Muslim women without including them in the decision-making and policy-crafting process. Instead, white male British lawmakers are undermining religious liberty under the pretext of national security to exploit Muslim women’s bodies as a political tool and limit their right to self-sovereignty and religious freedom.
Further, Cameron plans to deport Muslim women who don’t pass an English exam after spending two and a half years in the country on a spousal visa, which could potentially separate mothers from their children if they fail the test. As Myriam Francois-Cerrah suggests in an op-ed for the Telegraph, separating Muslim children from their mothers is morally irresponsible and more likely to make them radical.
Cameron argued that those with poor English skills are more vulnerable to extremist messages, because they are unable to properly integrate into British society. He asserted, “If you are not able to speak English, not able to integrate, you may find, therefore, you have challenges understanding what your identity is, and therefore you could be more susceptible to the extremist message.”
Ironically, Cameron’s conservative government previously cut 45 million pounds in ESL funds in the summer of 2015 that eventually shut down programs that helped migrant women and men learn English.
The Conservative Party’s preposterous proposal reinforces a common media narrative that radicalization is due to Muslim people’s lack of successful assimilation into British society, as if difficulty in integrating is solely the Muslims’ fault.
Eaves, a British organization that helps women, recently published a report that focuses on women who resettled in the U.K. with spousal visas and their ability to integrate into British society. The report, titled “Settling In,” found that all the migrant women interviewed agreed that proficiency in English is vital to living in the U.K. and a large majority of them take free English courses to help them assimilate, to help their kids with their school work and for better employment opportunities. However, the report indicates that migrant women are unable to pay for their own English courses because they have other financial priorities.
The Conservative Party’s preposterous proposal reinforces a common media narrative that radicalization is due to Muslim people’s lack of successful assimilation into British society, as if difficulty in integrating is solely the Muslims’ fault. Learning English in an English speaking country isn’t bad; rather, its an essential component of assimilation into a new country.
However, Muslim immigrants need the proper resources provided by the government to help them understand the new land they find themselves in, which includes free English courses. Also, the notion that learning English will help deter radicalization implies that speaking English can act as a shield against the ostracism and bigotry Muslims face from many sectors of English society. They’re more likely to end up impoverished and financially distressed due to bigotry in employment, which has a greater impact on the success or failure of Muslims to assimilate.
As Francois-Cerrah points out in a commentary on the controversial new law, nowhere in Cameron’s proposals does he address the socioeconomic conditions of British Muslims that could actually help them integrate better into British society. According a report conducted by to the Muslim Council of Britain, 46 percent of the Muslim population live in the most impoverished regions of England.
By singling out and targeting Muslim women, these new measures could potentially radicalize more Muslims, albeit unintentionally. It’s this type of scapegoating rhetoric employed by European governments that terrorist groups like ISIS exploit to recruit more people in their larger effort of eradicating the gray zone, or Muslims living in the West.
The proposals reflect the ideology of the isolated British elite, who are disconnected from the reality of British Muslim life and who subtly promulgate an anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda that’s becoming increasingly rampant in Europe.
Image: IBI Times