October 13, 2013
By Haroon Siddiqui
Jews have historically been falsely accused of wielding too much power. Now Canadian Muslims are, especially in Quebec.
A national poll has taken a measure of bigots who exaggerate the power of those they dislike. Nearly a third of Canadians believe Muslims have too much influence in their province. In Quebec, 43 per cent think so. This is ironic, given that Canadian Muslims report feeling under siege and helpless to stop the demonization directed at them because of Muslim mayhem elsewhere in the world.
A second poll corroborates the increasing hostility toward Muslims — again, more so in Quebec.
The findings come amid an ugly debate in Quebec over its plan to ban religious symbols and clothing, especially the hijab, for those on the public payroll. And there are increasing incidents of hijabi women being harassed — not just in Quebec but in Ontario and elsewhere.
Islam is the fastest growing religion in Canada, as it is in the U.S. and Europe. The 2011 national census estimated the Canadian Muslim population at 1,053 million, up 73 per cent since 2001. In Quebec, it is 243,500.
This week on Tuesday and Wednesday, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha, the festival that marks the annual Haj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, a gathering of about three million, including an estimated 1,500 from Canada.
Thirty per cent say Muslims have too much power. Twenty-one per cent think that about the Sikhs. And 18 per cent each say that about Jews and “Asians” (Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, etc.)
In Quebec, suspicion of Muslims and Jews is much higher. While 43 per cent think that Muslims are too powerful, 32 per cent think that of Jews. Tellingly, more separatists think that way than others. “Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia common among Indépendendistes,” reads the headline on the Forum findings.
“If the Charter of Quebec Values is an example of the Parti Québécois practising dog whistle politics, it appears there are plenty of ears tuned to that particular frequency,” says Lorne Bozinoff, president of Forum.
I presented him with an argument: The poll merely quantifies the bigotry that’s always present in society; that he asked leading questions (“Do Muslims have too much influence in your province?”); and that respondents mouth off against whatever group is in the news negatively.
Bozinoff had a crisp answer: “Respondents had a right to say no but a great many didn’t. It was an IVR (interactive voice response) poll — people were pressing 1 and 2 on their phones in response to questions. There was no human being influencing them.
“The results are shocking but informative.”
An Angus Reid poll asked a sample of 2,025 Canadians — divided into Quebec and the rest of Canada — their views about different faiths.
Nearly 70 per cent of Quebecers don’t like Islam. In the rest of Canada, 54 per cent don’t.
Next on Quebecers’ hit list is Sikhism, disliked by 43 per cent, followed by Judaism, disliked by 41 per cent.
In the rest of Canada, 39 per cent view Sikhism negatively, 29 per cent Hinduism and 22 per cent Judaism.
Who holds the most negative views? Both polls point to the old, the less educated and the less wealthy.
Forum also shows that across Canada, Conservative supporters are more likely, 36 per cent, than supporters of other parties to presume that Muslims are too powerful. In Quebec, 47 per cent of PQ and 53 per cent of Bloc Québécois supporters think so.
Angus Reid shows that younger and university-educated Canadians hold more favourable opinions of non-Judeo-Christian religions.
We may shrug off all this as a passing phenomenon.
After all, similar views have been held in the past against Catholics, Japanese, blacks and, especially, Jews. Over time, prejudices shift toward newer minorities, including by those who had once been victims of just such prejudice.
Or it may be that more people these days are willing to admit their biases and do so with a stridency we used to think of as un-Canadian.
Still, Shachi Kurl of Angus Reid says that leaving aside Quebec, the results do suggest that the rest of Canada, while more open-minded than Quebec, “may be operating under a veneer of acceptance rather than actual acceptance” of religious minorities.
For sure, Canada is not immune from post-9/11 fear of Muslims. We see that in the crude public discourse, especially in right-wing media and among some politicians, especially in Quebec, who feed at the Islamophobic trough.
The Star: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/10/13/canadian_muslims_encounter_increasing_hostility_siddiqui.html