In BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on 18th January 2016, the comments made by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, were very welcome for the encouragement of learning English, which is of course crucial to how a person connects and communicates with society.
I would also however value the comments by former Chief Superintendent Mr. Dal Babu, who has experience of work with families whose children have been radicalised. I agree with his view that mixing up issues is unhelpful. Most unhelpful I would say!
I am myself a Muslim woman, have been a British citizen for nearly four decades, and a major part of my life has been devoted to voluntary services for community and society. I feel fortunate to be part of a free and generous British society which is a beacon of light and hope for the world.
I have been an active participant of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women’s organisation, and know for a fact that the work we do is empowering for women.
With my female colleagues I have organised many an event on a regular basis, helping and educating women to be strong and upright pillars of society.
In women’s segregated events, whether educational, social, leisure or fitness, women have their comfort zone which is un-matched by any other arrangement.
In a drive to make women “resilient” members of society, the Prime Minister is proposing to take away a comfort zone and an empowering set-up which women have whenever they wish to use it. Look at a scenario for a moment, as an example; mixed tennis matches to become “a source of resilience” and men and women only tournaments to be cancelled!
The hijab, as advised by Islamic scripture, is an integral part of a Muslim woman’s faith. A scarf or shawl is draped to cover the head and chest; what it pertains to do is to give a Muslim woman a dignified and honourable appearance as she emerges in society. Covering of face, or niqab, is not a basic part of hijab and those women who prefer to practice it are always willing and should be willing to show their faces if security requires.
For the past forty years in Britain, I have dressed myself in burqa (a coat of a fabric in accordance to the weather with a head scarf). At my children’s schools, serving as secretary on Parent Teacher Association, at university events up and down the country. At Cambridge, Durham, Bristol, and half a dozen more renowned establishments. One of the highest courts in the land doing jury service. It caused no hindrance nor discomfort to anyone. On the contrary, it has always resulted in respect shown to a principled person.
I would therefore say, out of a life time bursting with fulfilling experiences of British society, that I do realise times are tough, with the world pitched for a battle of minds; but let us develop education and understanding, forbearance and tolerance. If English lessons are called for, let us pool energies together and raise the standards of education. Where misleading ideas and abusive practices need to be uprooted, find the sources from where they emerge; if madrassas or extremist views are sources, let us stand up like a wall in their path.
In the very fortunate multi-cultural and multi faith society of Britain, we need to find solutions and not demolish higher principles of human rights.