British Prime Minister David Cameron has the guts to say what many are thinking but have been too scared to vocalize: There's a cultural and ideological wedge between Muslim immigrants and the Western nations that welcome them, and the first step toward bridging that divide is making sure immigrants speak the English language.
The prime minister didn't mince words when describing the situation in the U.K. in a Jan. 18 op-ed for the London Times:
Where in the world do you think the following things are happening? School governors’ meetings where male governors sit in the meeting room and the women have to sit out of sight in the corridor. Young women only allowed to leave their house in the company of a male relative. Religious councils that openly discriminate against women and prevent them from leaving abusive marriages. The answer, I’m sorry to say, is Britain.
Ringing the alarm bell, Cameron noted 22 percent of Muslim women in the U.K. speak little or no English, "despite having lived here for decades." Those women don't and can't feel a part of British society if an enforced language barrier prevents them from integrating, and Cameron pointed out that "60 percent of women of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage are economically inactive."
Imposing Sharia law, engaging in female genital mutilation and forced marriage, forbidding women to educate themselves or learn the English language -- those things might be acceptable in the most dogmatic Muslim countries, but treating women like that is not compatible with Western values.
And it's not just British Muslim women Cameron is concerned about.
"Too many children in Bradford and elsewhere are starting school with no English because it is not spoken at home, and that has a knock-on effect for their education," Naz Shah, a Muslim member of Parliament, said, according to Newsweek. "Early years education starts in the home."
To make sure Muslim migrants, particularly women, fully integrate into British society, Cameron announced a new initiative: With almost $30 million in funding, the U.K. will provide language classes for Muslim women who face social isolation because they can't communicate with their neighbors.
Classes will be convenient for the women the U.K. hopes to integrate, taking place in homes, schools and community centers. The plan even provides daycare so mothers can learn without distractions and without worrying about their children.
The classes will be tied in to the U.K.'s visa program. Migrants will get a chance to prove their English proficiency when they enter the country, and again after two and a half years. If they still can't demonstrate at least a basic proficiency in the language, that will become a factor in whether U.K. immigration authorities allow them to remain in the country.
“All too often, because of what I would call ‘passive tolerance,' people subscribe to the flawed idea of separate development,” Cameron wrote in his op-ed. “It is time to change our approach. 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 and build our country together and more creative and generous in the work we do to break down barriers.”
As to Cameron's critics -- and there are many -- surely they would feel different if they were prevented from becoming a productive member of society. To some, freedom seems overrated until they lose it.
And then there's the elephant in the room: Terrorism. In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 129 people, the ongoing atrocities committed by ISIS in the name of Islam, and a wave of sexual assaults that have sparked anti-immigration riots in Germany, it's become clear that allowing a separate fundamentalist society to exist within the larger society makes fertile ground for breeding terrorists.
Integration is the best way to combat that.
"I am not saying separate development or conservative religious practices directly cause extremism," Cameron wrote. "That would be insulting to many who are devout and peace-loving. But they can help a young person’s slide towards radicalization."