The controversy around Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent decision to invest £20 million into English lessons for Muslim women living in Britain ramped up a notch when he wrote an article for The Times, in which he declared that learning English would help tackle the "traditional submissiveness of Muslim women".
He went on to say that would allow Muslim women to challenge any radicalisation taking place amongst children.
Labour Party politician and barrister Shabana Mahmood spoke for all Muslim women in her own article for The Times.
"Hearing the prime minister speaking on the radio yesterday about his plans to encourage Muslim women to speak English made me feel cross", she wrote. "Not the normal kind of 'what you're doing is going to hurt my constituents' mad. But a personal, 'how dare you, do you even know me?' kind of irritation. By the time I had read his article, I was incensed.
"In [his article] he jumps around all over the place — from speaking about the English language, to FGM, forced marriage, extremism, segregation and separateness. It was almost like he had taken every word he could think of that he associated with Muslims and thrown them together and added a dash of 'the woman problem' for greater effect".
Yesterday, thousands of people — men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim — used the Twitter hashtag #TraditionallySubmissive to show Cameron that Muslim women are far from passive and perfectly able to express their opinions.
My #TraditionallySubmissive mother; Fluent in 3 languages (Inc Eng) Finance manager for a global firm Raised a Doctor and Economist Tea— Sadiq ﺍﻝ-Damani (@SadiqDamani) January 25, 2016
However, the best #TraditionallySubmissive response has to be that of 8-year-old Sadiya Rahman from London, who wrote a letter to the prime minister and sent it to 10 Downing Street.
"The other day me and my brother heard my mum and dad talking about what Mr David Cameron said about Muslim mothers", began Sadiya's letter, which was printed in full in The Independent. "We were worried thinking they will take our mum away.
"She does not speak English to us. She immigrated to this country from India. My dad says there is nothing to worry about as she studied English Literature for her degree. But she speaks to us in Urdu because she wants us to learn it. Plus she speaks English in a different accent we find funny. But she does not like it".
Sadiya's touching letter also reveals her concerns about other aspects of her culture that are under threat.
"I see my mother wearing headscarf when she is out. I really like that so I also wear it. I wear it because I like to wear it, not because my parents force me to. The other day my dad asked me if I ever feel forced to wear it and my answer was no", she wrote.
"In November we went to raise money for the Poppy Appeal. Our photos were in the newspaper. I wore headscarf in the photo as some people think that Muslims are bad. I wanted to show them that Muslims are good. Of course there are some bad people who are Muslims. But aren’t there bad people everywhere?
"When I grow up I want to be an author and scientist. I want to help people. I have also heard that Cameron may ban us from wearing headscarves. I want to grow up and wear a scarf even when I am an author and a scientist. I will be very upset if I can’t wear my headscarf while helping people".
Sadiya Rahman is a young, female British Muslim. Bright, articulate and respectful? Absolutely. Traditionally submissive? Not in the slightest.
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