As I slowly awake from hibernation in the midst of an icy blue January, the cold has got me shivering - but it's the dangerous, stigmatising and misplaced attack on Muslim women that sent a cold shot down my spine. Conflating issues and attaching them to items of no relevance our government is doing what it seems to do best.
Prime Minister David Cameron has affirmed his position that Muslim women can be banned from wearing veils in schools, courts and other British institutions following his announcement of a £20 million scheme to help counter extremism and confront 'dangerously' patriarchal homes - a scheme to enable Muslim women to wait for it.... learn English. Feeling sorry for those who are unable to attend ESOL (English Language) classes due to Tory cuts, (might you be a Hindu women or a Trinidadian man) for Muslim women there's around £100 for each of the alleged 190,000 women.
The Prime Minister wants Muslim women to learn English to counter extremism. Projected as though it was a light bulb moment of an idea, few and far between seem to share the same belief. Yes, it is an advantage for anyone to speak the spoken language of their residing country, it allows independence and opportunity but to place language barriers as a cause of 'extremism' is simply irresponsible. The comments and initiative conflate and draw attention to an item which isn't exclusive to any one community, and you'd think by reading or listening to what was said no Muslim women could speak a single word of English. The comments marginalise and target Muslim women separating their benefit to learn and speak English from every other community fuelling ammunition for anti-Islamic sentiment and the perception of otherness.
Cameron has been criticised by his own party, those in opposition and basically anyone with any sense, Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham calling his approach "clumsy and simplistic". The PM said non-English speakers could be "more susceptible" to 'extremism', though it seems he's missed the fact that 'extremism' speaks more than a single language. To threaten women who may come into Britain to learn English or risk deportation is a targeted and unacceptable attack on a lone group and it seems in his drive to ramp up the fight against 'radicalisation' and 'extremism' and drive out what he's called patriarchal societies he is becoming his own enemy.
The niqab, the hijab, motherhood, exploitation and patriarchy, Muslim women seem to stir debate in Britain like few others can. Encouragement and rows over what they should or shouldn't do - or wear, you'd think we had lost the ability to speak or dress ourselves. To encourage people to learn and make it easier for individuals to educate themselves should be encouraged and supported but not those that come with clauses to meet certain means. The Prime Minister accepts that there is no clausal link to language and extremism but still resolved to make the link during his proposal. It might be an idea to look at credible strains of opinion around what leads to 'extremist' thought before he lays out his next proposal.