Tragedy lessened negative image of Muslims in Quebec: Poll

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SHAFAQNA – Favourable opinions of Muslims increased by 22 points following the Jan. 29, 2017 massacre at the Quebec City mosque that killed six, according to a poll by Léger for the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) shows.

Only 28 per cent of Quebecers viewed Muslims positively in March 2016. But a year later, following the massacre, half of Quebecers said they had a positive opinion of Muslims.

The wave of sympathy after the attack caused a major shift in public opinion, said Jack Jedwab, president of the ACS.

“It clearly made a lot of people who hold negative views on Muslims rethink their views,” he noted.

But some of the empathy toward Muslims faded during the year, as political debates over issues like restricting the niqab (Muslim face veil) resumed, the polling shows.

By November, the number of those with positive views of Muslims had dropped back eight points to 42 per cent.

While positive views of Muslims rose after the massacre and then fell again slightly, negative views dropped slightly and then rose. Sixty-one per cent of Quebecers viewed Muslims negatively a year before the attack. The number dropped to 42 per cent in March 2017 and rose to 48 per cent by November.

There’s a strong correlation between political debates involving religious minorities and negative opinions toward Muslims, Jedwab said.

The poll also showed anglophones and allophones are far more likely to view Muslims positively than francophones.

While 42 per cent of Quebec francophones had a positive opinion of Muslims in November, 59 per cent of anglophones and 50 per cent of allophones did so.

While almost half of Quebec francophones viewed Muslims negatively, 35 per cent of anglophones and 42 per cent of allophones did so.

Nationally, 57 per cent of Canadians viewed Muslims positively in November, up from 44 per cent in March 2016 and 55 per cent in March 2017.

With opposition parties vowing to press for more prohibitions on religious garb during the next Quebec election campaign, goodwill toward Muslims could suffer, Jedwab warned.

“Regrettably, my concern is that in a pre-electoral period, people will see these things as opportunities to secure more votes, which is very unfortunate if that should occur.

“Hopefully this one-year anniversary will be a reminder that that’s not the best way to build a harmonious society,” he said.

Léger surveyed 2,344 Canadians by internet between Nov. 14 and Nov. 21. The poll was said to be accurate within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Previous polling was also conducted by internet and said to have a margin of error of between 2.5 points and 3.5 points, 19 times of 20.

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