David Cameron unveiled a new plan on Monday to speed the assimilation of immigrants, Muslims above all, into British society. The clear and present danger of homegrown terrorism inspired by Islamic State and other jihadist outfits makes this an urgent matter.
The Prime Minister’s most controversial proposal is to require recent immigrants to demonstrate significant progress in learning English as a condition of their visas. The measure is meant to prevent the isolation and segregation of Muslim immigrant women, some 190,000 of whom speak little or no English. By boosting funding for language instruction for these women and effectively requiring their husbands or fathers to send them to classes in order to stay in the U.K., Mr. Cameron hopes to boost their economic and social opportunities.
The idea faces an uphill battle in Parliament—already, there are dark warnings that it will result in “deporting mothers”—and it’s unclear how effectively it could be imposed in practice. But Mr. Cameron’s basic insight that immigrants need to be drawn into the broader society is right. So is his effort to prevent schools and local councils from surrendering to demands from some immigrant groups for gender segregation in public settings such as school-board meetings.
Another promise is a review of the role of religious bodies, particularly so-called Sharia councils. Media reports over the years have highlighted the extent to which such councils can interfere with the administration of civil family law—for instance, by requiring a woman who has obtained sole custody of her children during a civil divorce proceeding to share custody with an abusive ex-husband in exchange for a religious divorce.
“We will never truly build One Nation unless we are more assertive about our liberal values, clearer about the expectations we place on those who come to live here and build our country together, and more creative and generous in the work we do to break down barriers,” Mr. Cameron wrote Monday in The Times. He decried the “passive tolerance” of minority communities’ mores that has allowed “backward” attitudes toward women to persist.
The proposals are already meeting resistance from the usual left-wing quarters, but the bigger worry should be that such a debate about liberal values and assimilation is coming too late. As we learned in 2005 from the supposedly assimilated 7/7 bombers, and again with the case of University of Westminster-educated Mohammed “Jihadi John” Emwazi, even integration and economic success is no guarantee against terrorist radicalization. What most needs to change is the way in which Islam is too often preached by clerics or other community leaders.
Still, the Prime Minister is right that the state can demand that its immigrants learn Britain’s language and adopt its basic political values. We hope he inspires more timid politicians to follow his lead. (Source: WSJ)
:: Muslims taking part at the first ever congregational Friday prayer in Parliament Square in London, England on October 9, 2015. (PHOTO: TOLGA AKMEN/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES)
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