Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Ladywood
David Cameron has come under fire from a Birmingham MP for claiming that failing to learn English could make people “more susceptible” to supporting terrorism.
And she defended women who choose to wear full face veils, after the Prime Minister said he would support schools and courts which demanded women remove face coverings.
Ms Mahmood also said women should be free to be segregated from men if they choose, although she said personally did not agree with segregation.
The Prime Minister has announced plans to encourage people who come to the UK on a spouse’s visa to learn English, and warned that they “can't be guaranteed” they would be able to remain in the country if they don’t.
While the measure would apply to any man or women who comes to the UK as a husband or wife, the Government’s publicity material focused on Muslim women.
Writing for The Birmingham Mail, Ms Mahmood said she supported plans to make it easier for immigrants to learn English.
But she said: “The first point where his logic departs is his leap from a lack of English to higher susceptibility to radicalisation.”
She continued: “There is no evidence for it. In the 1960s many of the women who came to Birmingham from Kashmir could not speak English but levels of terrorism did not increase.
“In any case it’s far from clear why the lack of English speaking by the mum of the family is so problematic in relation to radicalisation and extremism.
“The implicit assumption in David Cameron’s speech is that the men of the family do speak English."
Mr Cameron didn’t understand that “Muslim women are making choices for themselves,” she said.
“He may find it inexplicable to understand why a woman would choose to be fully veiled but I have met plenty of educated empowered Muslim women who do.”
Prime Minister David Cameron during a visit to a mosque on Monday
In a separate article written for The Times, Ms Mahmood defended segregation of men and women, saying: “The majority of the examples I see of Muslim women who dress with a full veil or who socialise in a segregated setting are educated professional women – just making a different choice to the one Cameron wants them to.
“So the real question I would ask the prime minister is this: how comfortable is he with accepting the genuine choices of women, educated and literate, when they don’t fit with his world view?
“I don’t agree with either the wearing of the full veil or indeed gender segregation outside of religious gatherings – but I have always respected the freely made choices of my fellow human beings, even when they are inexplicable to me. I think that’s one of the best things about the freedoms we enjoy in this amazing country of ours.”
Labour came under fire for holding a rally during last year's general election where men and women appeared to be segregated .
Meanwhile, Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has announced measures to fight extremism in schools.
She said: “That’s what we saw in the Birmingham schools at the heart of the Trojan Horse Affair: a concerted attempt to limit young people’s world view and spread poisonous views which had no place in our education system.
“That’s why we are taking action to remove those responsible from our classrooms and have put robust measures in place to prevent anyone else from being able to do the same again.”