British Prime Minister David Cameron must be condemned for the outrageous comments made last week in The Times and elsewhere in which he claimed that a lack of ability to speak English was connected with what he referred to as an “alarming picture” of isolation facing some Muslim women. He even announced plans to deport some new migrants if they subsequently failed language tests two and a half years after entering Britain on a spousal visa, and announced £20m for the provision of English classes for “women who are isolated”. The Prime Minister then went on to claim that an inability to speak good English and what he called “separate development” and the “development of parallel communities” was not only responsible for “aiding men” who hold a “damaging control” over women in some communities but might also “help a young person’s slide towards radicalisation”.
Cameron’s provocative comments were presented in the context of upholding the rights of women, building “One Nation”, upholding “our liberal values”, and ending what he referred to as the strategy of “passive tolerance”. However, his efforts did nothing to hide the openly racist nature of the article which singled out “migrants”, Muslim women and people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin in particular. Cameron’s comments, which were repeated in subsequent interviews, were immediately and widely condemned. Baroness Warsi, the former chair of the Conservative Party, asked why proficiency in English was being linked with “terrorism” and why Muslim women were being singled out. Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, was amongst many who pointed out that the Conservative government as part of its austerity agenda had already cut the budget for English language classes by over £45m, as part of over £400m in cuts to the adult skills budget. The National Association for Teaching Community Languages to Adults pointed out that these swingeing cuts have already led to a 42% drop in the number of migrants, nearly 40,000 people, unable to take English classes.
The Prime Minister’s comments point to the openly racist nature of the British state and the fact that it refuses to treat all citizens equally, solely on the basis that all are human and belong to the same polity. Cameron’s comments seek to perpetuate the Eurocentric notion that there are first and second class citizens on the basis of language, nationality, religion or some other consideration. What is more, Cameron wishes to find new means by which to deprive certain section of the population of citizenship. How is it possible to speak of the need for “integration” in such circumstances? What is exposed is the fact that Cameron’s “liberal values” are based on those of his 19th century predecessors who also spoke of “liberty, equality and mutual tolerance” while engaged in the bloodthirsty task of establishing the Empire and oppressing its inhabitants. Cameron writes of the alleged dilemma of some young people who are “struggling to identify with western culture” in an openly Eurocentric way that infers that their national culture and language is backward and inferior. What is required and must be fought for by all is rather a modern society that defends the equality of all cultures and languages in Britain, that guarantee’s citizenship rights solely on the basis that we are all human.
Of course, there is also the need for the renewal in all national cultures to combat harmful notions and practices, but this must be carried out by the people themselves not based on the Eurocentric diktat of others. What is clearly required is the renewal of the entire political process in Britain as part and parcel of the people empowering themselves and becoming the decision makers. As some commentators have pointed out this week if there is “isolation” it is perpetuated by a political system which disempowers the people, while accommodating and rewarding those who defend its Eurocentric values. What is required is the building of a new society which guarantees the rights of women, youth, workers, the national rights of all people and the rights of all to determine their own futures.
The Prime Minister made much of the “liberal values” which he claimed to be upholding. It cannot be denied that these are the same 19th century “values” which provide the justification for state terrorism, for military and economic interference throughout the world and even the invasion of other sovereign countries. It is the also upholding of such values which has created the unstable conditions and poverty which have led to an exodus of millions of refugees and migrants as well as the destabilisation of entire regions. Such values attempt to justify the austerity measures that are based on the principle of paying the rich and giving them first claim on the national wealth, which has been created by the workers of Britain and other countries. These “liberal values” which the government and their allies wish to speak of as “universal values” only represent the interests of the financial institutions and monopolies. The Prime Minister cannot claim that these are values that are upheld by the majority of people in Britain, nor can the government demand that anyone adheres to its values, since all have the right of conscience.
David Cameron’s comments were clearly designed as an attempt to attack certain sections of the population as the basis for attacking the right of all, to promote racism and Eurocentric notions, to create confusion as to the nature of “extremism” as well as presenting his government as the defenders of enlightened values. Rather it has exposed the fact that it is the government and its values that are increasing isolated and the need for people of all nationalities to step up their struggle in the defence of the rights of all.