In Brief

Cameron: 'segregation' of Muslim women must end

Prime Minister says it is time to be 'more assertive' about liberal values

David Cameron has called for "more assertive" action to be taken to increase the integration of Muslim women into UK society, beginning with the need for them to learn English.

Writing in The Times, the Prime Minister said that discrimination and sexism were rampant in some Muslim communities, with segregation of men and women the norm.

His comments came after a meeting with a panel of British Muslim women, where, he said, the success stories were mixed with "an alarming picture of forced gender segregation, discrimination and social isolation from mainstream British life" in some communities. Blaming "passive tolerance" for allowing "backwards attitudes" to continue unchallenged, he said it was time to be "more assertive" in standing by liberal values.

Arguing that culturally segregated parents can lead to children being confused about their identity and vulnerable to radicalisation, the Prime Minister unveiled plans to review Sharia courts and increase funding for English teaching in Muslim communities.

He cited "new figures" that show 22 per cent of Muslim women in the UK speak little or no English – a symptom, he suggests, of their isolation from mainstream British society – and said the government has set aside £20m for English classes targeting Muslim women who may not have had the opportunity to learn. The scheme will see classes held in easily accessible locations, such as homes and schools, with travel and childcare provided.

However, some have expressed concern that the Prime Minister is linking the threat of extremism to the role of Muslim women and language.

Former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent Dal Babu, who now works with families affected by radicalisation, was among those who questioned his reasoning. He told the BBC that conflating the issue of learning English with stopping extremism was "unhelpful".

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham, meanwhile, criticised the Prime Minister's "simplistic" approach to tackling extremism, tweeting that his could, in fact, be making the problem worse by "stigmatising" Muslims.

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