Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Jack Straw: Controversial Again

Jack Straw has said that Asian/Muslim women should learn to speak English before being given a passport. This was part of a speech in which he said:

One of the things we need to recognise is that there is a big cultural divide between Muslims and the rest of us, more than say with the Afro-Caribbean community.

It does seem logical that Muslim culture will be more different than Afro-Caribbean. After all, the Caribbean was colonised by Europeans for quite a long time, such cannot really be said about the Middle East. And, it is also true that some aspects of Muslim culture are stretching the tolerance of the West.

However, it is illogical to assume that speaking English will make much impact on this. As Hamid Qureshi, chairman of the Lancashire Council of Mosques, points out, the younger generation of Muslims can all speak English fluently and yet lots of them are still radical.

Learning English should be a priority for any foreigner who comes to this country and it probably is for the vast majority. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that the cultural divide between the more extreme Muslims and the "rest of us" (as Straw puts it) can be bridged by having a common language.