After David Cameron’s remarks last week in which he associated extremism with the lack of English skills Muslim women possess owing to their ‘traditionally submissive’ backgrounds, and announcing his plan to provide training for the language, there has been an outpouring of response from the women in the Muslim community and otherwise as well.
A charity organisation in London’s East End called the City Gateway provides training to women who possess little or no knowledge of the English language. The Evening Standard was invited to visit the organisation and found out that they run nine language courses, attracting women from Bengali, African and European Backgrounds.
Hannah Pilkington, the centre’s manager talked about success stories which included women who entered the training centre with no prior knowledge of the language and who came out speaking fluent English.
Commenting on Cameron’s plan, in which he said that the migrants must learn the language within 30 months, she said: “We’ve seen women come through our programmes who needed four years to go from nothing to a level where they would easily communicate and work.”
Also following Cameron’s statement, a campaign was launched by Sukaina Hirji on Twitter in backlash to his comments. Women from different parts of the UK have posted pictures of themselves, often listing their extensive qualifications along with their ability to speak English followed by the hashtag #traditionallysubmissive. Hirji herself posted a picture holding a paper which read,
• GP @ awesome NHS
• Proud mum of 3
• Sherlock Holmes fan
Cameron was also quickly criticised by MPs for singling out Muslim women as the main group that needed help, and accused of unfairly stigmatising a whole community.