A regional daily political reporter has branded David Cameron’s warning that a lack of English skills could be linked to extremism as “simplistic” and “ridiculous”.
Aisha Iqbal, left, of the Yorkshire Evening Post, has hit out after the Prime Minister announced to invest £20m into English classes targeted at ethnic minority women.
Visiting Leeds last week to announce the new programme, Mr Cameron warned that not speaking English adequately could make people “more susceptible” to the recruitment messages of groups like Daesh (Islamic State).
Writing in the YEP and its sister title The Yorkshire Post, Aisha, whose mother moved to the UK from Pakistan 40 years ago at the age of 21, said the PM’s “populist rhetoric” could end up alienating the groups he claims to be trying to help.
She wrote: “Seriously? Suggesting that the fight against extremism could be remotely linked to a lack of English skills is simplistic and, frankly, ridiculous.
“It is quite irresponsible too, because it unfairly and disproportionately shifts another burden of responsibility onto Muslim communities who are already under the microscope from all sides.
“And the conflation also dilutes two very important but very distinctly different issues affecting large portions of our society, both of which have been chronically mis-handled by successive Governments.
“It might have escaped some people’s notice, but Daesh doesn’t speak Somali or Afghan or Punjabi or Kurdish. It speaks internet and social media, and it speaks very good English on the whole.
“Some of the families who are thought to have travelled to Syria to join Daesh contained two, even three, generations for whom English is their first language. A few of them were white British. Before that, the mums and family members of some of the London bombers spoke with the broadest of Yorkshire accents.
“So how did their language skills – or lack thereof – protect them and their loved ones from (or push them towards) being brainwashed? The mind boggles.”
Aisha acknowledged there were pockets of the country where it would be “disingenuous” to deny large portions of people don’t speak English due to new arrivals being “dumped” in under-resourced inner city areas, but accused Mr Cameron of singling out Muslim women in the scheme.
She added: “Mr Cameron should stop painting himself as the liberator of the UK’s oppressed female Muslim masses, because at LEAST 95 per cent of them are not.”