A lecturer friend was shocked when a student asked if she could miss class to accompany her mum to hospital. The daughter needed to translate for the mother who had lived in east London for more than 30 years. When my friend wondered how that was possible, the daughter replied: “My dad didn’t want mum to learn English so she never did.”
Sadly, her case is far from unique. Some 22 per cent of Muslim women in the UK – around 190,000 – speak little or no English. That’s not a huge figure in itself, but multiply it by the number of their children and suddenly you have an awful lot of five-year-olds turning up at school without a clue how to talk to their teachers or classmates. Without a clue about the culture of their country.
Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women’s Network UK, says women tell her that their husbands or in-laws don’t want them to learn English because it will “disturb the status quo”. So you live in the UK, where you get all the benefits of the world’s fifth largest economy, but you can still treat your wives and daughters as if you were back in rural Pakistan. Result! You can ensure that women are confined mainly to the home while the men go out and speak for your community.
Sometimes, there are segregated meetings where men get the chairs and women sit in the corridor. If girls attend an Islamic school, they are covered in black from head to toe from a young age. No one outside their community wants to talk to them because they look scary – and this, too, suits your purposes. They never get access to the opportunities enjoyed by other British young women. Good. Who knows what ideas that might give them…
Oh, and if you want to divorce your wife, you use a Sharia court where women are seen as having half the worth of men. So much nicer than British justice with its crazy insistence on equality!
Well, if Muslim men think like that, then they deserve to have their “status quo” disturbed. That is why we should give a cautious welcome to David Cameron’s £20 million plan to improve English classes for immigrants and, more specifically, to bring Muslim women into mainstream society. I say cautious because any plan which threatens to deport women for failing to learn English when it’s the men who are keeping them locked away is grossly unfair. Muslim women have got quite enough outrageous sexism to deal with as it is.
Three cheers, though, for the Prime Minister’s proposed ban on women wearing veils in schools, courts and other British institutions. The niqab is just horrible. How can children learn from a teacher who can’t be seen, or jurors assess a hidden woman’s evidence? And I’m sorry, but no one is ever going to convince me that shrouding a woman’s body and face says anything other than Subjugated Female Within.
At last, our PM has had the balls to confront the “appalling practices” of a patriarchal culture which has seen discrimination against women and girls flourish. Of course, the PC mob are still in denial. Andy Burnham, the Shadow Home Secretary, tweeted: “Cameron’s simplistic, headline-driven approach to extremism risks unfairly stigmatising a whole community, thereby making the problem worse.”
Let’s pause for a moment and think what Burnham’s party did. Apart from turning a blind eye to Pakistani girls “disappearing” from schools (into forced marriages) so Labour could hang on to their fathers’ votes, it was Labour that spread the pernicious doctrine of multiculturalism, which says that all cultures are equal. What, even the ones that treat 14-year-old girls like brood mares?
Shush, madam. Don’t go worrying your pretty little head about that; go indoors and do something with a mop, please.