British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote a piece for The London Times on Jan. 18, in which the statesman said that Muslim refugees in the United Kingdom need to "improve their fluency" in the English language.
USA Today reports that in drawing a connection between 'forced gender segregation' in Britain's Muslim communities and learning the English language, Cameron wrote:
Consider this: new figures show that some 190,000 British Muslim women — or 22%— speak little or no English despite many having lived here for decades. 40,000 of these women speak no English at all. So it’s no surprise that 60% of women of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage are economically inactive.
The prime minister has drawn backlash from a variety of quarters. Green Party leader Natalie Bennett pointed out that the British government cut funding for English classes for migrants in 2011, The Independent reports.
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Cameron, however, now wants to spend roughly $28 million on a "language fund" for the 190,000 Muslim women in England who are believed to speak little or no English. He also noted that some men in Britain's Muslim communities were purposely preventing women from learning English and said the U.K. will begin testing anyone entering Britain on a five-year spouse visa every 2 1/2 years for English fluency.
A study from the Muslim Council of Britain, however, shows the percentage of Muslim women "struggling" with learning English at only 6 percent, rather than the 22 percent figure used by Cameron.
Cameron's basic argument is correct. Non-fluent Muslim women living in Britain will absolutely have an easier time integrating into the country's culture if they learn English. However, the scope of the problem is contested and not entirely clear from Cameron's piece alone. What will be truly difficult is the political will to budget public money for English classes to the tune of $28 million.