Windsor Humanist Society

June 27, 2007

‘Friction-over-faith’ trumps debate over Canadian unity

Filed under: Uncategorized — moderator @ 3:59 pm

Muslim-Christian tensions a concern, reveals survey conducted by The Association for Canadian Studies from June 12 to 17, 2007
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Canadians believe that the country’s traditional French-English tensions will be overshadowed by friction between Christians and Muslims when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary a decade from now, according to a survey of attitudes on intercultural and interfaith relations by The Association for Canadian Studies.

Of the 1,500 people polled, 34 per cent said they were pessimistic about the future of Christian-Muslim relations and another 29 per cent expected tense interaction between aboriginal Canadians and non-aboriginals by the year 2017.

Respondents were much more optimistic that white Canadians and visible minorities, as well and Christians and Jews, would enjoy good relations in 10 years. Only 16 per cent and 14 per cent respectively were pessimistic about those relationships, similar to the 19 per cent who predicted troublesome French-English relations by the time Canada reaches the sesquicentennial of Confederation.

Twenty-three per cent said they were pessimistic about the relationship between religious and secular Canadians.

Twenty-two per cent were pessimistic about immigrant-non-immigrant relations.

“For the most part, the results reflect a fair degree of optimism,” says Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Montréal-based research association. “They do, however, suggest a shift in concerns away from language and inter-racial tensions to concerns over aboriginal-non-aboriginal and interfaith relations — in particular relations between Christians and Muslims.”

He noted that the Christian-Muslim relationship is a complex dynamic involving religious and cultural differences, highlighted by such flashpoint controversies as the debate over Sharia law and the expulsion of a female soccer player for wearing a hijab.

“Can you argue that this (tension) has displaced language concerns in Canada?” he asks. “I think you can to some extent.”

The telephone poll, conducted in early June by Leger Marketing, is part of a series of public opinion surveys and studies commissioned by the ACS to mark Canada’s 140th birthday on Sunday.

Mr. Jedwab said the survey on intercultural relations highlights a clear “paradigm shift” in Canadian anxieties from the traditional French-English divide to post-9-11 apprehensions about security on one hand and, on the other, racial profiling and similarly controversial practices that have stirred vocal opposition among Muslim Canadians.

Those tensions have been most pronounced in Québec, the survey shows. It is the only province in which more respondents were pessimistic (49 per cent) than optimistic (47 per cent) about the future of Christian-Muslim relations.

“Muslims are more of a focal point in Québec,” said Mr. Jedwab, citing the relatively high rate of Arab immigration to the province, the greater attention in Québec given to the conflicts in France and other European countries with their Muslim communities, the broader rejection of religion in Québec society compared with other provinces and the province’s high-profile debate over “reasonable accommodation” of its religious minorities — highlighted by controversies such as the town of Herouxville’s “code of conduct” stereotyping of Islamic culture.

“In Québec, this is where the existential issue seems to have moved,” said Mr. Jedwab. “Anglophones seem much less the object of demographic concerns than Muslims.”

The shift, he added, is clear in the decline of public and media attention devoted to language conflicts — “we hear much less around such concerns of late” — and a “growing preoccupation over relations between religious groups.”

The survey, conducted June 12 to 17, 2007
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…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a June 27, 2007 article by Randy Boswell in The National Post

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