In the past few months, the news has been full of coverage of the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Turkey and Iraq. Understandably, our government has become increasingly worried about the possibility of another terrorist attack happening in Britain, and as a University student I was interested to see whether the government was making any special effort to change the education system to try and prevent the radicalisation of school children. After a quick search, I found that David Cameron had committed £20 million to teach Muslim women already in the UK the English language. As an English and Languages student, this caught my attention, and the logic behind this investment seems sound. If Muslim women are taught to speak English fluently, they can then get more involved in their communities and make more social contacts outside of their non-English speaking group of friends. This may turn them away from radicalisation, as they can then see Britain’s liberal culture as an acceptable alternative rather than believe the hate-speech of radical preachers. However the key target of this policy appears to be young British Muslim children, who are particularly vulnerable to radicalisation. It is hoped that if their mothers can speak English and are further removed from the potential extremist views then they will also be less likely to turn to radicalisation. This policy has also sparked controversy however, as others are keen to point out that mothers will instil good morals and valued into their children regardless of their ability to speak English. Either way, this scheme shows the value that politicians give language, as a way of understanding others and breaking down cultural barriers. This rings true with my experience of learning languages as it certainly makes it easier to communicate with and understand those who come from different backgrounds to yourself. Maybe the key to fighting terrorism lies not in hyped-up rhetoric or increased levels of violence, but in sustained efforts to ensure that those most vulnerable to radicalisation are dissuaded from that path – whether that be through the use of language or other means.
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