A new national survey that tapped the level of ‘positiveness’ that Canadians feel toward selected groups suggests that Muslims — significantly more than 10 other subsets of society — remain a magnet for negativity a decade after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
Vancouver Sun The results of the new poll echo the findings of a previous ACS survey just ahead of last month’s 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which showed that a majority of Canadians believes conflict between Western nations and the Muslim world is “irreconcilable.”
In fact, the latest ACS poll showed that while 58 per cent of respondents mustered positive views about “relations between visible minorities and whites,” barely half as many — 30 per cent — were positive about “relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.”
Meanwhile, seven other groups generated positive perceptions from respondents. Chinese people, who narrowly topped the results at 75 per cent, were followed by Protestants, Blacks and Hispanics/Latin Americans (all 74 per cent), Catholics (73), Jews (72) and francophones (70).
ACS executive director Jack Jedwab said the markedly more negative response to Muslims is matched by similar polling results in Britain and the U.S., making clear that the challenge of improving perceptions of the vast majority of Muslims who reject Islamist extremism is a multinational task. “Most of these perceptions are built around images that people see globally,” said Jedwab.
Canadian Prime Minister Harper singled out Islamicism as the biggest threat to Canada:
The similar findings in other Western nations “suggests this isn’t a Canadian-specific issue . . . I’m not saying we shouldn’t have programs” and policies in Canada to improve general perceptions of Muslims, “but the impact of those programs is limited if we don’t have global cooperation.”
That survey of 1,500 Canadians in early September showed that 56 per cent of respondents see Western and Muslim societies locked in an unending ideological struggle, while about 33 per cent — just one-third of the population — held out hope that the conflict will eventually be overcome.
Together, says Jedwab, such surveys highlighting the widespread unease towards Muslims are forcing a rethink of the prime challenge facing Canada and other Western societies in terms of ethnocultural relations. A decade ago, he said, the prevailing view was that promoting social harmony in these countries would depend on overcoming language conflicts or easing general tensions between “whites and all visible minorities.”Instead, “what’s emerging now is a focus on Muslims vs. non-Muslims,” he said. “The outlet for people’s prejudice has been displaced by the focus on Muslims.”
Canadians’ negativity towards Muslims is reflected across the country in the new poll, but most strongly in Quebec. Debates in that province about what constitutes “reasonable accommodation” of minorities — sparked partly by concerns about Muslim head scarves — have been more pointed than elsewhere in Canada.
Only 35 per cent of respondents from Quebec expressed “very positive” or “somewhat positive” perceptions toward Muslims. The results were higher in other parts of the country: Atlantic Canada (48 per cent), Alberta (48), B.C. (46), Ontario (45) and Manitoba/Saskatchewan (39).