recent study by the Angus Reid Institute, a non-profit organization, has brought to light some revealing insights about Islamophobia in Canada. The study unveils significant nationwide negativity and Canadians’ Views of Islam, with the most intense found in Quebec.
However, the perception is far from uniform, with substantial disparities across the country. This report will help you to understand the complex landscape of attitudes toward Islamophobia in Canada.
The Prevalence of Unfavorable Views
In recent years, perceptions of Islam have stirred considerable debate in Canada. The Angus Reid Institute’s research found that 39% of Canadians outside Quebec and a much higher, 52% within Quebec hold an unfavourable view of Islam. These figures hint at a worrying trend of negativity towards the religion and its followers.
The “Views of Islam Index”
To better comprehend these complex attitudes, the Angus Reid Institute developed the “Views of Islam Index.” This index evaluated feelings towards five major religions – Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Judaism – using the following parameters:
- Personal feelings towards religion.
- Views on individuals wearing distinctive religious symbols in public.
- Comfort levels with colleagues wearing these symbols at work.
- Support or opposition to establishing various places of worship in the neighbourhood.
- Acceptance of a child marrying a member of one of these religions.
Based on their responses, Canadians were segmented into four distinct categories: those holding Very Positive, Positive, Negative, and Very Negative views of Islam.
Government’s Response to Growing Islamophobia in Canada:
In late January, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a significant move by appointing the country’s first representative specifically tasked with battling Islamophobia in Canada.
The person appointed for this critical role is Amira Elghawaby, a renowned journalist and human rights activist. Her mandate includes enhancing the government’s initiatives against Islamophobia in Canada, systemic racism, religious intolerance, and racial discrimination.
This move comes amid growing concerns about an increase in violence against Muslims in Canada. There’s been a shocking 71% increase in such incidents between 2020 and 2021. The seriousness of the issue was underscored in 2017 when six individuals tragically lost their lives in a Quebec City Mosque attack.
While these violent incidents grab headlines, a subtler but equally worrying trend is the less favourable view many Canadians hold toward Islam. A comparison with five other major religions shows that Canadians have the least favourable opinion of Islam. In Quebec, only a quarter of the residents have a positive view of the Muslim faith. Even the highest percentage across the country doesn’t go beyond 37%.
The contrast in Attitudes: Quebec vs. Rest of Canada
The contrast between Quebec and the rest of Canada was stark. Outside Quebec, 37% of the population demonstrated Very Positive or universally accepting views of Muslims and their religious symbols. A further 27% held generally positive views, although not in all the scenarios outlined in the study.
In Quebec, positive views were more restrained but still represented almost half the attitudinal landscape. Here, one in five (20%) displayed Very Positive views, with another quarter (25%) leaning on the generally positive side of the index.
However, Quebec also showcased a concerning trend: 30% of the population displayed Very Negative views towards Islam. This figure was nearly double that observed in the rest of Canada (16%). This increases the rate of islamophobia in Canada.
While Quebec tends to hold less favourable views of most religions, this pattern isn’t exclusive to this region. Across Canada, negative perspectives on faith, particularly Islam, are unfortunately quite common. This suggests a nationwide need for greater understanding and acceptance of various religions.
Attitudes on Hijabs in Public Spaces
The question of whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear hijabs in public spaces elicited varied responses:
- Outside Quebec, a substantial majority (72%) supported the right to wear a hijab in public, while 28% opposed it.
- In Quebec, the support was lower, with slightly more than half (55%) approving, and 45% expressing opposition.
Survey data reveals mixed feelings in Canada about co-workers wearing religious symbols. In Quebec, only two-thirds feel comfortable with turbans and hijabs. Additionally, there’s unique discomfort with the Jewish kippa in this region, a trend not seen in other parts of the country.
Regional Differences in Perceptions
Albertans, Ontarians, and Atlantic Canadians tend to view Islam in a very positive light, contrasting sharply with more negative views prevalent outside of Montreal.
Political Affiliations and Views on Islam
From a political standpoint, the most negative views of Islam are held predominantly by Bloc Québécois voters in Quebec and Conservative Party supporters in the rest of Canada.
The Influence of Age and Education
Age and education also played a role in shaping perceptions of Islamophobia in Canada. Older Canadians were more likely to fall into the Very Negative group, whereas younger Canadians were more likely to align with the Very Positive group. Among the Very Negative group, half held a high school diploma or less, suggesting a correlation between education levels and attitudes toward Islam.
The Bill 21 Controversy
Bill 21, an act prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols by public authority figures, seems to have a polarizing effect on public sentiment. This increases Islamophobia in Canada. Those harbouring unfavourable views towards Islam generally support Bill 21, whereas its popularity decreases among individuals with more positive or neutral views.
- In Quebec, more than half (57%) supported the bill.
- In contrast, only a quarter (25%) backed a similar concept for their province outside Quebec. Moreover, two-thirds (65%) opposed it outright.
The Question of Islamophobia in Canada
Asking Canadians whether they believe their country has an Islamophobia problem elicited a 50-50 split. Half of the respondents acknowledged it as a problem, while the other half did not perceive it as an issue. Interestingly, those most likely to view Islam negatively, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, were also most likely to deny the existence of Islamophobia in Canada.
Views of Other Faith Groups and Religious Symbols
Those holding very negative views towards Islam also exhibit negativity towards other faiths such as Sikhism, Judaism, and Christianity. These individuals tend to be more resistant to public displays of religious symbols, especially the burka and kirpan. Moreover, they show a high aversion to places of worship in their communities.
Addressing Anti-Muslim Sentiment
Despite these disparities in views, there is debate about whether Islamophobia is indeed an issue in Canada. The population is evenly divided, with half believing that there is a significant anti-Muslim problem, and the other half denying its existence.
Regional Views on Islamophobia in Canada
On a regional level, Saskatchewan and Manitoba residents are more likely to believe the issue is exaggerated. The opinion in Quebec is more evenly split.
Efforts to Combat Islamophobia in Canada
Though half of the Canadian population acknowledges anti-Muslim discrimination, fewer people believe that appointing a special representative to combat Islamophobia is necessary. A significant proportion, two in five (44%), deem it unnecessary. Even those with the most positive views of Islam are not unanimous in this regard.
The study conducted by the Angus Reid Institute sheds light on the concerning rise of Islamophobia in Canada, particularly in Quebec. Negative views towards Islam and its followers are prevalent, with a shocking increase in violence against Muslims in recent years.
Despite regional variations, it is clear that there is a nationwide need for greater understanding and acceptance of different religions. Age, education, and political affiliations also play a role in shaping attitudes towards Islam. Recognizing and addressing Islamophobia in Canada is very important to promote acceptance and fight against unfair treatment. By figuring out these difficult ideas, Canada can work harder to be a welcoming and accepting place for everyone.