Please continue calling me different and trying to deport me. That will help integration

Seventy-seven per cent of Brits support deporting migrants on spousal visas if they fail to learn English withinin two and a half years. Blimey

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Muslims this morning woke to the news that Trevor Phillips, the ex-chairman of the Equality and Human rights Commision, thinks Muslim communities are “unlike others in Britain, and “will not integrate in the same way.”

Replace the word ‘Muslim’ with Black, Christian or Jewish and you can see the problem, can’t you?

Unfortunately, Phillips’ remarks have not been the only case of institutional Islamophobia to hit the headlines this week. I have been silently gnashing my teeth having read the Government’s disappointing proposal to deport those on spousal visas – if they fail to learn English – within two and a half years.  Blimey.

Depressingly, hot on the heels of this Government’s announcement is a recent You Gov poll which says 77% of people of British people support deporting migrants on spousal visas – thereby agreeing with our Prime Minister.

I suspect if David Cameron had it his way, I’d have been deported already.  As a little girl, I lived on top of my Dad’s flock wallpapered Indian restaurant.  I smelt of curry. Permanently.  I arrived at infant school with no English, even though I was born at St Georges Hospital in Tooting, London.  Mrs Matthews – the black teacher whom I had high hopes of (how wrong I was) – mercilessly and in her own self-loathing way, would mock me for not knowing words such as ‘radiator’ (my family had gas fires). The white kids laughed at me.  The whole class ganged up one day to beat me up. Such was their hatred of my skin colour, poor English and shyness.

My English took years to develop. I even recently contacted a sympathetic teacher to share my shock at how the “stupid”, “feckless Yasmin” – as a more frustrated member of staff called me – was now somehow being given free rein to write for the Independent.  He wrote back saying: “I found your email really uplifting and at the risk of sounding patronising I am really proud of you.”In 2016, that email may not get sent to future kids like me. No wonder we’re upset.

The You Gov poll serves to remind us of the latent racism and xenophobia extant in the UK and born out of discontent at the success of a diverse and multi-racial society.  To isolate Muslims is wrong, while Cameron’s linking of speaking English and stemming radicalisation is bizarre.  They are unrelated. Integration is key but to believe it is achieved simply via language classes is misleading and hurtful.

If you genuinely want to help Muslim women, Mr Cameron, use the mosque infrastructures which we repeatedly state can be a brilliant means to access and provide empowering experiences.  Engage the Imams and community leaders. We women want to banish the idea that mosques and Islamic centres belong to, and are controlled, solely by men.

Muslims communities – both David Cameron and Trevor Phillips need to accept – are not the problem here.  Lack of funding in local services integration and education strategy is.  Not to mention the well the shocking funding cuts made to womens’ rights groups and domestic violence charities in the past half-decade.

Cameron and his Cabinet should sit down and talk directly to Muslim men and women, as well as all the support services that already exist to support them. All that we are seeing so far from the likes of Cameron and Philips is the fuelling of xenophobia and hatred.  Not what the UK or Muslims need right now.

niger delta

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