Politics Column Analysis Politics

Tackling terrorism with English classes

Julia Guy challenges the efficacy of the new governmental language scheme, arguing it to be evidence of a binary mindset that sees only good or bad citizens.

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Home Secretary Theresa May visits Al Madina Mosque. Image: UK Home Office
Home Secretary Theresa May visits Al Madina Mosque. Image: UK Home Office


David Cameron is launching a new £20 million scheme that enables non-English speaking Muslim women, who live in the UK, to learn English. The launch is set to help counter terrorism, in order to aid integration and minimize isolation between communities in the UK.
The current UK threat for international terrorism is at 'severe', meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

Terrorism is at the forefront of the news and with the recent devastating attacks on Paris, that occurred in 2015, we are now a more protective nation than ever. The current UK threat for international terrorism is at 'severe', meaning that a terrorist attack is highly likely.

Cameron sees it as necessary to address the oppression Muslim women face, allowing them to learn English as a way for them to gain independence. But not all Muslim women are oppressed and teaching them English doesn't exactly tackle the roots of their oppression.
Cameron is assuming that Islam and Britishness can't be compatible

Nationalism has instilled a sense of Britishness among citizens of the UK, to which people hold core values. Cameron sees it as in his best interests to maintain these values, hence the introduction of the language policy, which forces non-English speaking citizens to learn English or face consequences and possible deportation. It is important to note how Cameron has not implemented a change for all non-speaking British citizens but only those who identify as Muslim.

Through Cameron targeting Muslim non-English speaking people he is assuming that Islam and Britishness can't be compatible. How are these so called 'disintegrated' Muslims expected to integrate into a community that constantly sees them as suspicious and unworthy? There is necessity in protecting the country from extreme acts of violence, but at the cost of alienating innocent minority citizens?
Discourses like Cameron's perpetuate the growing stigma surrounding Islam in modern day Britain

In his speech at the Munich Security Conference on February 5th 2011, Cameron discussed the challenges of tackling the growing problem of terrorist activity in the UK. When discussing issues of Islamic fundamentalism and increased immigration into the UK, Cameron closed his speech by saying 'at stake is not just our lives but our way of life'. This seems a detrimental discourse, reinforcing a notion that sees Muslims in the UK as 'outsiders', a threat to core British values and therefore a threat to national security.

Discourses like Cameron's perpetuate the growing stigma surrounding Islam in modern day Britain. The fact that it was announced in late 2015 that Muslim related hate crimes were to be given their own section in national crime statistics highlights the importance of recognising and addressing Islamophobic attitudes in Britain.

Cameron states, 'we will never truly build One Nation unless we are more assertive about our liberal values, more clear about the expectations we place on those who come to live here'. By using this as a point of focus for why the implementation of the language course will occur, Cameron reinforces that Muslims have a certain level of expectation when living in the UK, they have to integrate into 'our' British culture by learning to speak English in order to gain the privilege of citizenship in the country. In the eyes of certain politicians this is Britain heading towards becoming a multicultural state, when in fact it is Britain dominating minority groups.

Targeting oppressed groups in society in order to tackle a worldwide problem of terrorism, is extremely problematic and creates an assumption that all non-English speaking Muslims could be possible terrorists. Forcing people to learn English is no way to combat terrorism, not to mention promote multiculturalism.

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1 Comment

Daniel Gronow Posted on Wednesday 28 Oct 2020

Only targeting Muslims is naive. But arguing that the programme assumes incompatability between Islam and Britishness is ludicrous. It's a secular initiative; no-one is attempting to athetise the Islamic faith, or else convert Muslims from their religion. Similarly, the programme is not replacing Muslim languages with English, so arguments from a cultural perspective are witless. If we dismiss such contentions, this seems less controversial. Cameron is not suppressing Islam under some monolithic nationalism, but rather responding to the Islamophobia underlying contemporary thought. Integration and female independence are encouraged, and more opportunities are opened up to people. Besides, if one is unwilling to learn the language of the country in which they wish to reside, that suggests a certain animosity on their part, no?

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