Elizabeth Thompson, National Post (Toronto), September 10, 2010
Nine years after the devastating 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, a majority of Canadians don’t believe Muslims share their values, according to a new public opinion poll released exclusively to Postmedia.
The poll, conducted earlier this week by Leger Marketing in Canada and Caravan in the United States, found that 55% of Canadian respondents and 50.3% of Americans disagreed when asked whether “Muslims share our values.”
However, the poll reveals there are also significant regional differences in the way Muslims are viewed in Canada. While 72% of Quebecers said Muslims didn’t share their values, compared to 19% who said they do, that rate dropped to 35.5% in British Columbia where 40.8% saw shared values with Muslims.
Ontario and Alberta were closer to the national average. In Ontario, 54.5% said Muslims don’t share their values, compared to 34.9% who said they do, while in Alberta 57.9% of Albertans said values weren’t shared, compared to 32.4% who said they were.
Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, which commissioned the poll along with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, said the opinion Canadians have of Muslims has been deteriorating over the past few years.
“I think the principal thing that worries me when you see these results is the tendency to generalize,” he said. “There is a tendency to see an incident arising with someone who is Muslim or a group of people who are Muslim are involved and there seems to be a ready tendency to generalize to the entire group.”
Ayman Al Yassini, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, agreed the situation is getting worse and suggested Canada’s Muslim community reach out more to other Canadians.
“They have to communicate the true nature of Islam and build bridges.”
Older respondents in both countries were more likely to feel that Muslims share their values. While only 43.5% of Canadian 18- 24-year-olds felt that way, the rate rose to 70% among those 65 years old and older.
One of the biggest divides was between English- and French-speaking Canadians. The poll found 49.7% of English Canadians didn’t feel Muslims share their values (compared with 37.9% who felt they do). However, among French respondents, 74% said Muslims didn’t share their values and only 17.4% thought they did.
Among those whose first language was neither English nor French, 52.3% said Muslims didn’t share their values.
Jedwab said controversies and media reports in Quebec over the past few years on questions such as the reasonable accommodation of ethnic minorities or Muslim women wearing the niqab face veil likely contributed to the attitudes among Quebecers and francophones.
The surveys were conducted via the web during the week of Sept. 6 with 1,700 respondents in Canada and 1,000 in the U.S. The Canadian survey is considered accurate to within 2.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, while the American survey is considered accurate to within 3.5 percentage points.