David Cameron has announced plans to toughen up the rules relating to immigrant women arriving in the UK on a five-year spousal visa. Families could be broken up and mothers deported if they fail a new mandatory English language test two and a half years after they arrive. The Government claims that 190,000 Muslim women in England lack adequate English language skills and that 38,000 do not speak any English at all. The Prime Minister confirmed that a new £20m fund to pay for English language classes will help tens of thousands of women facing social isolation, discrimination and lack of opportunity.
Declaring that it is “not acceptable” that women in parts of the UK are not allowed to leave their homes without a male relative and are required to sit out of sight of men during governors’ meetings at Islamic schools, he said: “We are one of the most successful multi-ethnic, multi-faith democracies in the world. Where there is segregation… it is not in tune with British values and it needs to go.” He might also have added that Sharia courts presiding over matrimonial and family cases treat women as second-class citizens and consider their testimony to be worth half that of a man’s.
Mr Cameron is absolutely right. However, the threat to deport those women who fail the language test should be re-examined. Surely, given that it’s Muslim men who are denying women the opportunity to integrate and fully participate in UK society, it is only fair that it should be the men who get deported?
Patriarchy and misogyny run deeply in the Quran, but Muslims should be persuaded and encouraged to move beyond literal interpretations of their scriptures. We simply should not allow a patriarchal sub-culture to grow roots in this country and Muslim men must be challenged at every opportunity over their penchant for keeping women locked away. As Mr Cameron says, it is simply not acceptable.
It is the Muslim men who should be held accountable.