May 8, 2013
By Jordan Press
OTTAWA — The Islamic centre in Saskatoon is experiencing growing pains. Friday services have been split in two so local streets aren’t clogged with traffic. City officials and nearby residents are working with the centre to answer questions like where to put more parking?
“We have been experiencing this kind of steady increase for a while,” said Amin Elshorbagy, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress.
“We can see this in terms of the need to expand our infrastructure. Most of our Islamic centres are becoming very crowded.”
Across the country, the Muslim population is growing at a rate exceeding other religions, according to Statistics Canada. It is even growing faster than the number of Canadians identifying as having no religion, though just barely, according to the National Household Survey released Wednesday.
The Muslim population exceeded the one million mark, according to the survey, almost doubling its population for the third-consecutive decade.
However, the survey results should be taken with caution. Experts say the voluntary nature of the survey, which replaced the mandatory long-form census, leaves gaps in the data from groups that tend not to respond to such surveys, such as new immigrants.
Experts believe the data provide a fairly good, broad picture of Canada, but data on smaller groups may have less reliable information.
As mosques become more commonplace and more women wear the niqab, there are growing debates about religious accommodations.
“We need to sit down as Muslims, not as a community because there isn’t one community, and decide what we want to be accommodated and what we want to give up,” said Alia Hogben, executive director of the Canadian Council of Muslim Women.
That internal debate in the Muslim community sometimes gets sidetracked, largely because of the backdrop of violence done in the name of religion, which Canadian Muslims regularly condemn.
“It is an additional pressure and a big one on the Muslim community,” Elshorbagy said.
“We need to be extra nice just because we’re Muslims. We need to go beyond certain limits, which is very unfortunate for people like me,” he said. “Sometimes the media will call something Islamic terrorism — once you call it Islamic, you’ve brought me into the picture even though I haven’t done something wrong.”
And with their numbers now reportedly over the one million mark, the pressures are likely to mount.
“Polling has shown that Canadian Muslims are proud to be Canadian, more so than the average Canadian,” said Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“Canadian Muslims very much want to integrate and be part and parcel of the society.”
One-on-one, non-Muslims may have favourable views of their Islamic colleagues, but that feeling doesn’t always extend to the wider Muslim population, said Pamela Dickey Young, a professor of religion and culture at Queen’s University.
“It isn’t like Canadian Muslims have not tried to educate the Canadian populace…but for some reason there’s still that edge with it that some Canadians have problems getting over,” Dickey Young said.
Muslims now represent 3.2 per cent of the country’s total population, nudging up from the two per cent recorded in 2001.
Immigration has largely fuelled the increase, with the largest share coming from Pakistan over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada.
But the survey provides no breakdown of type of Muslims living in Canada, as the survey didn’t ask respondents, for instance, whether they were Shiite or Sunni.
“People keep blocking us into one cohesive mass and we’re not that at all,” Hogben said.
National Post: http://news.nationalpost.com/2013/05/08/survey-shows-muslim-population-is-fastest-growing-religion-in-canada/