British Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday announced a plan to boost the English language fluency of Muslim women immigrants residing in the U.K. The thinking behind the $28.5 million plan is to offer language classes to help combat social isolation and increase integration for the 190,000 Muslim women living in England that, Cameron says, are able to speak little or no English.
Cameron went on to say, in an op-ed for the Times, that with the rights of British residency comes a responsibility to speak English—or potentially face deportation:
We must also make more progress on English language… This has to be tackled head on. We’ve already introduced a language test for new migrants, but I believe it’s time to be much more demanding. Yes, we have responsibilities to migrants, but they have responsibilities too. At the moment, someone can move here with very basic English and there’s no requirement to improve it over time. We will change that. We will now say: if you don’t improve your fluency, that could affect your ability to stay in the UK. This will help make it clear to those men who stop their partners from integrating that there are consequences.
“Britain already requires prospective spouses to demonstrate English language skills to roughly that of a child starting primary school,” the Associated Press notes. “Under Cameron’s plan, spouses would have to improve that ability to a higher standard after five years—or face deportation.” The plan received immediate criticism for linking the inability to speak English to extremism; Cameron said there was no causal connection between the two in subsequent interviews.
“This lazy and misguided linking, and what I saw once again as stereotyping of British Muslim communities, I felt took away from what was a positive announcement,” former minster in Cameron’s cabinet, Sayeeda Warsi, told the BBC. “I think to threaten women and say to them that ‘unless you are of X standard we will send you back, even if you have children in the U.K. who are British and your spouse is British’ is, for me, a very unusual way of empowering and emboldening women.”