By announcing that £20m will be spent to “teach thousands of Muslim women to speak English”, David Cameron’s portrayal of them as linguistically deficient, culturally suppressed and visibly alien is reminiscent of a long line of colonial repression.
The prime minister is playing the “white male saviour”, seeking to rescue this meek and downtrodden Muslim woman from barbaric and backward Muslim males, by giving her the freedom of the English language, the power of speech and by unveiling her to the world.
As a consequence, British Muslim women will continue to face already sky-high levels of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim abuse and attacks.
The prime minister’s plans for language lessons have been greeted with sighs and scepticism, particularly in light of extensive cuts in adult education and English language classes.
Although the money is welcomed by adult education professionals, why has there been a specific focus on Muslim women? This money would be better distributed for the good of all those adults who are seeking to develop their literacy, numeracy and employability skills.
It is laughable that Cameron claims the purpose of the new funding is to tackle segregation and extremism, while at the same time admitting there are no links between a person’s level of English and extremism. Muslims responding to these outrageous declarations by their prime minister are quite rightly angry at the continuous demonisation of Islam, and scapegoating of Muslims.
Marginalising Muslims through political, policy and media practices and rhetoric is responsible for making British Muslims – who call Britain their home – feel like they don’t belong to Britain. Disturbingly, even when ethnic minorities self-identify with Britishness or British values, they may find themselves excluded.
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