Tim Farron on English language classes for Muslim women


David Cameron has announced a £20 million fund for English language classes for Muslim women, claiming that 22% of Muslim women in the UK do not speak English.

That figure of 22% was challenged on the BBC Today programme by Dal Babu, a former chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police, who claims that the figure should be nearer 6%.

Help with learning English is the least the Government can do to help migrants settle down, live a full life in the UK and contribute to the local community. That is why in the Coalition the Lib Dems prevented the Government from cutting funding for English language classes.

So why limit it to Muslim women? The answer to that question is revealed in the subtext – Cameron manages to link the lack of English with extremism.

He says:

But if you’re not able to speak English, you’re not able to integrate, you may find, therefore, that you have challenges understanding what your identity is and you could be more susceptible to the extremist message that comes from Daesch.

Not surprisingly, Tim Farron has something to say on this:

This announcement is dog-whistle politics at its best.  David Cameron cut the budget for English language classes in August last year by £45 million. Now the Prime Minister is dressing up a massive cut as a £20 million funding commitment.

Linking women in the Muslim community who struggle with the English language to home grown extremism only serves to isolate the very people Cameron says he is trying to help.

Liberal Democrats support English language classes for anyone regardless of race, religion or gender and blocked these plans to cut funding for them in coalition.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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  • Tim is right on the double talk of this , first the cut then the dressing it up as an extra funding , but I am not convinced it is dog whistle politics as such , and Tim needs to pull back sometimes from what can sound too knee jerk or personal re Cameron , and too personally lenient on Corbyn . If ” play the ball not the man ” , a phrase Tim likes , is to happen , why , on such matters question the prime minister s motive ? Cameron has a funny way of being flashman and statesman , if we never or rarely let ourselves see the latter , or when we do , never seem to convey that , then , we , and Tim , look less statesman like . A shame , because Tim , to my surprise , as I didn t think of it as being one of the qualities he would show in a hurry , is himself increasingly statesman like , on occasion or particularly when on matters of defence , peace , security , immigration and foreign policy , as on Syria , he speaks his mind AND rises above the fray!

  • Colin Taylor 18th Jan '16 - 2:45pm

    Just pondering on what Cameron’s reaction would be if Spain, France and other countries with large amounts of English ex pat home owners in their midst suddenly announced they had six months to learn the language or get out?

    Dog whistle politics at the lowest level.

  • Conor Clarke 18th Jan '16 - 3:43pm

    @ Colin Taylor

    How can a policy announcement proposing spending £20 million on provision of education targeted towards Muslim women be a dog whistle to bigots? What kind of inept Islamophobe codes their discrimination in a commitment to spend lots of money specifically on helping Muslims?

    This ‘dog whistle’ meme is really just a roundabout way of impugning the motives of someone whose attitudes you find suspect. I wish we would avoid it.

  • Can someone tell Cameron English is a world language and as such most of these women have studied it abroad. Learning a language doesn’t mean you integrate with native speakers. David Cameron moves in a very limited social circle, he certainly doesn’t integrate with the rest of the population. I am surprised he has not called on people to learn Anglo-Saxon.

  • “So why limit it to Muslim women?”
    Tim has missed the point. This package of £20 million, for Muslim women’s education, is a clear message aimed at Muslim men. That unambiguous message is that their traditional suppression and control of women is simply not acceptable anymore.
    It’s a fact that no other mainstream culture has the same severe level of impediment, when it comes to a woman’s right to broaden her education? If this £20 million is spent properly, it will be a welcome educational measure towards shifting the cultural impasse that *some* Muslim men find hard to stomach.

  • Colin Taylor. I do not think that English expat women in Spain are kept confined to the home and kept unaware of equality for women.

  • Lorenzo
    I am not sure about the tactics you advocate, and I think we are all well aware that Cameron has a relatively high rating compared with some other leading politicians. This is ironic, considering the fact that as a former PR man anyway, his PR methods in politics are often quite transparent. In those circumstances, playing the man rather than the ball would seem logical, to try to expose those PR ruses to those who pay little attention to political detail?

  • Helen Dudden 18th Jan '16 - 5:07pm

    If you lived in Spain, you would learn the language, that’s if you wished to live and work there.

    Actually, some us with family issues have to learn quickly, to be part of the justice system.

    Nothing seems very planned, on what is to happen with these new members of the community.

    There is also massive cut backs on disability benefits, problems with the NHS, of course other issues too. Not to forget housing, most definitely a key issue.

    One way cuts at the top, expenses with government, MPs and the Lords.

  • “This announcement is dog-whistle politics at its best.”

    Poor stuff from Farron. Does he really, hand on heart, feel that Cameron’s announcement today was designed to whip up bigotry against Muslims? I find it hard to believe that Farron would genuinely think that. I’m no fan of Cameron, but I find such a suggestion to be free of evidence, and in fact all this kind of talk achieves is to whip up yet further, in a totally unhelpful way, the febrile atmosphere that pervades the discourse on Muslims.

    Cameron was quite clear in his announcement about what his main intentions are, but for some reason LDV has completely ignored that in this article.

  • Colin Taylor 18th Jan '16 - 6:54pm

    Sorry to the people I have offended with my earlier comment. I was trying to make a quick point but realize that I should have been far more explanitory.
    I have no problem whatsoever with money being allocated to teach the language to any one regardless of back ground, ethnicity / religion who wishes to come and live here. In fact I think the in the scheme of things £20 mk is far to low.
    What I do have issue with is the statement that if they can not learn the language they will be shown the door. The fact that Cameron referred to Muslim women is an example of what I was referring to as Dog whistle politics. playing to the neo cons.
    The reason for me commenting about expats who live in Spain and France etc is that I know and have met loads of people who have lived abroad for years and have not bothered to learn more than hello and goodbye and expect the locals to speak to them in English for every need.
    Far to many English people want every one to conform to our language and culture but are not prepared to conform in any way to other peoples culture when they are abroad.

  • I’m torn on this, when I was at school I found learning French very difficult and couldn’t pass my French standard grade. I’d hate to be told I’d be deported if I failed to pass an exam, especially if it were on a subject that I was virtually incapable of learning.

    But there clearly is a deep problem with cultural segregation in the uk, multi culturalism has been a complete and utter failure.

    It was obvious to anyone not blinded by leftist political dogma that certain immigrants were setting up their own societies with values that were opposed to British values. But the left refused to see that and even ignored the sexism. The recent events in Germany for example should not surprise anyone not blinded by political dogma. Someone on this site said when they heard about cologne it felt like a kick in the stomach, I thought it was only a matter of time.

    I don’t know if Cameron is right to do this or not to be honest, because it is harsh, but something must be done. We discriminate on the grounds of nationality when it comes to immigration making it more easy to emigrate here from some countries than others. I believe we should consider doing the same with religion and culture. A persons region or culture should matter more when it comes to immigration than their nationality I believe. Because we need people to accept certain British values.

    I believe the liberal left have made it likely that the UK will vote to leave the EU, their policy of rubbing people’s noses in multiculturalism will backfire, they will lose the stay or leave eu debates when we have them now.

  • Tony Greaves 18th Jan '16 - 10:25pm

    This is the most stupid thing that Cameron has said in a while, which is saying something. At a general level it will just increase the view amongst Muslims that they are being targeted and blamed, which will only help to radicalise any young people who are already feeling victimised. It’s just another example of how Cameron has no clue about most of the people in this country other than the narrow highly privileged social caste in which he has spent most of his life…

    *The idea that you can make special provision for Muslim women is ridiculous – highly discriminatory and probably illegal.

    *And why just women? About half the people coming to this country on spouse visas are men (surprise surprise!) and in those households it’s the women who have been born and educated here and speak good English. So are the new rules (you have two and a half years and you are out) just to apply to women? That too would be highly discriminatory and almost certainly illegal.

    *Then we have the utterly stupid idea that the reason some young men (and a few girls) get “radicalised” and set off to Syria or start making bombs is because their mother can’t speak English. ??? This is such a ridiculous idea that it puts real doubts into Cameron’s ability to think rationally. (The truth is that radicalisation usually takes place via the privacy of the internet and the people being radicalised are being radicalised in their own main language (English) and in some cases in Arabic – certainly not in Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujurati or whatever their mother might speak.

    *And then…just what will these Muslim women get for the £20 million of new money (replacing more than twice as much recently cut, and the steady drain of provision over the last 15-20 years – I don’t deny that the LDs in coalition helped to keep some of the spending on ESOL but it still went down during the Coalition). Free transport, free tuition, free childcare…£20 million for the alleged quarter of a million people might last for a week or two!

    Dog-whistle politics? That seems rather a mild and kind thing to say about this shocking and dangerous nonsense.

    Tony Greaves

  • Tony Greaves 18th Jan '16 - 10:27pm

    *Just imagine. A young woman comes from Pakistan to join her husband, English just good enough to get in. First two years of marriage – goodness, a couple of kids arrive! Six months later she’s been too busy having her kids and looking after them to spend much time on “improving” her English. So what happens – she is deported? With or without the kids? Breaking up the marriage? The scenario is so ludicrous that it only shows that such empty threats from Cameron show what we know from so many things he says – he opens his mouth before he has fully engaged his brain.

    Dog-whistle politics? That seems rather a mild and kind thing to say about this shocking and really very dangerous stuff.

    Tony Greaves

  • I live in Leicester, which has very large Muslim communities, and it simply isn’t my experience that Muslim Women are routinely denied the opportunity to learn English. It’s much more down to first generation, usually elderly, migrants and actually applies to both genders as well as migrants from other cultures. I think there is a huge element of post-Cologne dog whistle politics going on in Cameron’s pronouncements as well as a desire to be seen to be saying something about immigration in the run up to the EU referendum.

  • nigel hunter 18th Jan '16 - 11:34pm

    I am all for foreign people learning English to help to survive in the country. Equally an incentive can be developed to help those already in the country who do know the language to do the teaching and to encourage the learning of “Englishness”(culture). People only want to be with family, have a roof over their heads food in their bellies. To play to the gallery and link language weakness to terrorism is disgraceful dog whistle politics, base politics, a disgrace. I also noticed that the BBC news at one had it as one of the top news stories by 2 , 3,4 hourly bulletins it had disappeared. The 5pm news it was relegated to nearly the end of the programme. All of a sudden it was not newsworthy, I wonder why?

  • I would much rather everyone just got to a level of reaction in proportion !Many comments above , like from the regularly excellent councillor Mark Wright ,Conor and Anne , are measured responses , but Lord Greaves , what is it about Cameron that inspires such bile ? If anyone goes to the helpful link in Mary Reids article , you find much of what Cameron said was liberal and humane ! I disagree with the implication anyone would be deported , that is absurd in such situations , but the actual move seems to be to nudge people in the direction of integration and empowerment ! Did everybody read Cameron s actual words on the women involved ,on fears and concerns for them , he sounds like Lynne Featherstone compared to Lord Greaves ! I criticise Cameron when he deserves it , and Corbyn too which is more even handed than some seem to be .Funny how those who love to go for the Tory never criticise Corbyn for his dubious associations with odd far left Islamist groups groups that put women down .

  • first off, I do spend part of the year in Spain, and have learned Spanish to a degree sufficient to read newspapers, talk to people and watch tv. I didn’t expect the Spanish state to fund this, although the circumstances may be slightly different between myself and muslim women. it seems to me to be a matter both of courtesy to the host nation, and sheer self preservation, for incomers to learn the local lingo.
    I think the error here is in seeming to conflate muslim women and the need to counter terrorism. Beyond that, surely, there can be nothing to object to in this?
    On that note, is the picture accompanying the article really all that helpful?

  • Lorenzo.
    The problem is he’s linking all kinds of things together in a very tenuous way and the main point of Tim Farron’s response is that it’s a cut disguised as funding. From what I can tell few if any radicalised individuals struggled with the English language or were really being dragged into it by spouses. Most of the communications from IS are put out in multiple languages. The school girls who travelled to Syria were actually good students etc.
    Personally. the problem I have with a lot of the thinking around extremism is that it ignores the far more likely possibility that some people are just really attracted to bad ideas and simply agree with what IS stand for. We’re rally talking about a few people here and there.

  • ” integration and empowerment ”
    In the UK most people stick with those of the same background. There isn’t much integration or empowerment.

  • Glenn , your commentary is a good response , my concern in my own comments to an extent is not the rights and wrongs of Cameron s actual detail , indeed some of it may not stack up , but the imediate doubting of his motives , and in very stark terms . I think Cameron is as wrong as right , often as not , but I do not , though , regularly cast aspersions on the man s motives or attitude , Columbo probably influenced me too much as a youngster , look at the motive and the modus operandi , and on these a more measured approach on at least some of this topic would help ! Manfarang , if what you say on integration and empowerment comments I made ,is correct , and that , in your view our country has little of either , if that were so , that would be awful ! I am not convinced on this that you are right and am more positive than you about Britain today , on this .

  • Ian Sanderson. Those cultural differences keeping women housebound should never have been tolerated. Now why bring women from Pakistan or Bangladesh to marry? The British born and schooled got a bit too feisty?

  • @tony greaves

    You complain that this is discrimination as if all discrimination was automatically wrong.

    Surely Cameron is just trying to target the sections of the community where there is a particular problem with integration, how exactly do you target one section of society over another without some form of discrimination?

    We discriminate all the time, for example on nationality. It is easier to get a visa to come to the uk for the nationals of some countries more than others, that’s discrimination too.

    If discrimination on the grounds of nationality is ok, what is wrong with discrimination on the grounds of religion or culture?

  • Helen Dudden 19th Jan '16 - 12:11pm

    It is of great benefit to have an education. In most cultures, it releases empowering women into society.

    If you live in a country where you need to be able to speak English, to go to a doctor or dentist, to go shopping or any other everyday happening. It makes sense.

    How lonely It could be, not able to speak up for yourself.

    To help with a family issue, I had to be able to write another language, learn another culture.

    Your Party supports the EU, yet, when I requested help on this family matter and the need to resolve issues, not very forthcoming.

    in some EU countries languages are important, you don’t need lots of funding, try the internet, if anyone really wishes to learn that’s a good way.

    Has anyone heard of the Open University? I agree with David Cameron, we need to rethink spending, start at the top those expenses.

    Also, it helps in the workplace. It could be also an idea, for setting up self help groups.

  • @Anne: “why bring women from Pakistan” instead of marrying a local person?

    I suspect the answer is because these marriages are often arranged, sometimes to a family member such as a cousin.

    I think the males getting married to their cousin from Pakistan or whatever often don’t have too much choice in the matter either. An arranged marriage to ones cousin is not uncommon in Pakistan.

  • Rsf7,
    Good point. Arranged marriages seem to be more about finance and family than gender politics.

  • Denis Loretto 19th Jan '16 - 2:55pm

    Some posters here such as Lorenzo say almost as a side issue “I disagree with the implication anyone would be deported , that is absurd in such situations” and then go on to debate the strengths and weaknesses of Cameron’s ideas for assisting and encouraging the learning of English, something which per se can only be good. Do these posters not see that Cameron absolutely destroys any constructive element in his initiative by mentioning deportation in the same breath? The report on his interview states -“Cameron said women coming to the UK on a spousal visa could lose their right to stay in the country if they did not improve their English. New rules would come into force from October, he said, and these would involve people with poor English having their language ability tested after two and a half years. If they were not improving, there would be no guarantee of their staying, he said.
    When asked if this meant that a woman who came here and had children could be forced to leave if she failed the test, he said this was a possibility.”

    Surely it is obvious that any families affected by this – particularly Muslims as the clear target group – will be alienated rather than encouraged by this sort of talk?

    What on earth are we coming to in this country?

  • @Ian Sanderson

    “unacceptable” for a woman to leave the home to go to evening classes but a woman visiting the home is “ok” eh?

    I’ll tell you what I think is unacceptable, that culture having any place in Britain in 2015. The question I would ask is what on earth are we doing in tolerating such a culture in this country in the first place? If the lib dems are going to condem David Cameron’s plan then they do need to say what they would propose instead.

    So what is the lib dem solution to women being kept at home and not allowed to live a full independent life? as liberals tackling that head on should be one of the party’s number one priorities.

    The politicans who imported that culture into Europe have made it likely the UK will leave the EU now. One of the main reasons people will vote to leave the EU is because Europe is essentially a place with free movement of people and they don’t want a situation like what happened in Germany at new year happening over here (which it could if the perpetrators were given German passports).

  • Helen Dudden 19th Jan '16 - 5:03pm

    How can you be part of society if you can’t speak the language?

    You can’t work, and your Party was in favour of the PiP disability system being brought in, making benefits more difficult for disabled and those not working.

    So, unless you have areas where only those who speak that language live, you won’t be able to integrate into society.

  • Denis Loretto ,I am indeed trying to understand the basis of Cameron s proposal and scheme , you are correct ,and I appreciate you do quote me as feeling it would be absurd to deport in such a situation .You may be right in that I am being too fair minded , I concede having seen even under the previous Labour government all sorts of draconian and varying degrees of nonsense on requiring such and such to get citizenship , including answering questions that involve an awareness of Morecombe and Wise !!!!!!!!! I guess I see the implications of potential deportation , bearing in mind how hard it seems to be to deport even the dangerous , as empty rhetoric !

  • Helen Dudden 20th Jan '16 - 9:58am

    In Spain there is the same difference, you become part of a community.

    Also, when I visit my family, I remember different culture.

    I meet half way, I try to use the language, and respect the ways of a different culture.

  • Rsf7
    “I believe the liberal left have made it likely that the UK will vote to leave the EU, their policy of rubbing people’s noses in multiculturalism will backfire, they will lose the stay or leave eu debates when we have them now.”
    Actually the culture of other EU counties is similar to Britain’s i.e. European.

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