SHAFAQNA- Muslims in Canada are becoming more observant — they attend mosque more frequently and more women are now wearing face veils and headscarves than a decade ago. They’re also big-time Liberal voters and optimistic about the new government.
These are some of the interesting results from the Environics Institute’s updated study on Muslims in Canada released Wednesday. The phone survey conducted between November and January asked 600 Muslim adults across the country their views on a variety of religious and social questions, updating a similar study done in 2006. Muslim leaders and scholars participated in the development of the survey.
“Religious observance among Muslims has strengthened over the past decade,” the report notes. “An increasing number are attending mosques for prayers on a regular basis (at least once a week) and (among women) are wearing the hijab.”
This religious devotion is strongest among the younger cohorts. Those aged 18 to 34 are the most observant. “Compared with older Muslims,” the report explains, “they identify primarily as Muslim rather than as Canadian, and express a slightly weaker sense of belonging to the country.”
While only 5% of immigrants say their attachment to Islam weakened since arriving, 41% say it’s strengthened.
They’re also less tolerant of liberal values, as the study explains: “Muslims are more likely than other Canadians to value patriarchy (‘the father must be the master in the home’) and to reject homosexuality.”
But the numbers also show that over 4 in 5 Muslims feel very proud to be Canadian. That’s slightly more than the three quarters of the non-Muslim population, surveyed for comparison purposes, who feel that way.
So Muslims identify by their religion first, but are also more proudly Canadian. What’s the explanation for this apparent contradiction?
It could be because they feel the government embraces them and will go to bat for them. They feel at home in Canada. After all, a whopping 90% say they’re optimistic about the new federal government. For those who disclosed how they voted, 65% voted Liberal with the NDP showing a poor second place at 10%. Only 2% voted Conservative.
It’s a stretch to say this survey shows Muslims are in fact becoming more Canadian. It paints more of a complicated picture. But based on the increases in the Muslim population and their religious observance, Canada’s certainly becoming more Muslim.
“Muslims are one of the most religiously observant groups in Canada, and their religious identity and practices appear to be strengthening rather than weakening as their lives evolve in Canada.” – The Environics Institute
MUSLIM POPULATION IN CANADA (from Environics report)
1991 – 253,265
2001 – 579,600
2011 – 1,054,945
WOMEN WHO WEAR A HIJAB, CHADOR OR NIQAB IN PUBLIC
2006 – 42%
2016 – 53%
Strong sense of belonging
The survey found that 83 per cent of Muslims reported being “very proud” to be Canadian, an increase of 10 points since 2006. This was in contrast to non-Muslim Canadians — only 73 per cent of whom said they were “very proud” to be Canadian.
Fully 94 per cent of respondents said their sense of belonging to Canada was very or generally strong, and 58 per cent said their sense of belonging had become stronger over the last five years. Just five per cent said it was getting weaker.
Muslims reported that Canada’s freedom and democracy was their greatest source of pride (24 per cent), followed by the country’s multiculturalism and diversity (22 per cent). Younger and Canadian-born Muslims were much more likely to choose multiculturalism and diversity, compared to foreign-born Muslims, who valued freedom and democracy.
The biggest knock against Canada was the weather. Just under one-third of Muslims said that was what they liked least about Canada. Another nine per cent highlighted discrimination and the treatment of Muslims. One-in-five could not name anything they disliked about Canada.
Balancing Muslim and Canadian identities
Muslim Canadians surveyed said that being Muslim and Canadian are both very important to their personal identity: 84 per cent said religion was very important; 81 per cent said nationality.
But among respondents who said both were very important to their identity, 50 per cent chose their religion as being most important (27 per cent said both were equally important). By comparison, just 28 per cent of religious non-Muslim Canadians chose their religion over their nationality.
This was most marked among young Muslims who, 61 per cent of whom felt that being Muslim was most important, compared to six per cent who said being Canadian counted the most
Additionally, attendance at religious services is up: 48 per cent of Muslims report attending a mosque or community centre for prayer once a week or more, an increase of seven points since 2006; 33 per cent attend only on special occasions or never or almost never.
Regular religious attendance has increased most among younger Muslims, who are now the most likely to attend mosque regularly.
Among female Muslims, wearing the hijab is now more common, with 48 per cent of respondents reporting wearing the head covering, up 10 points. Another six per cent report wearing a chador, which covers the body, or niqab, which covers the face.
Though Muslims with less education are more likely to wear the hijab, as are those who have been in Canada for less time, the biggest increase since 2006 has come among young Muslims and those with a post-secondary education.
1/3 have experienced discrimination
According to the survey, 30 per cent of Muslim Canadians say they have experienced discrimination because of their religion, ethnicity or culture over the past five years — significantly higher than the reported experience of discrimination among the general population.
Accordingly, discrimination and treatment of Muslims by the broader community was mentioned as the most important issue facing Muslims today.
Fully 62 per cent of Muslims reported being very or somewhat worried about discrimination, increasing to 72 per cent among young Muslims and 83 per cent among Canadian-born Muslims.
Two-thirds of respondents were worried about how the media portrays Muslims in Canada.
Just 29 per cent of Muslims surveyed felt that the next generation of Muslims in Canada would face less discrimination and stereotyping than today. Another 35 per cent think it will be worse, while 21 per cent said it would be the same. Here again, however, younger Muslims were more likely to expect discrimination to get worse.
Nevertheless, 84 per cent of Muslims said that the way they are treated in Canada is better than in other Western countries — up seven points since 2006. Only two per cent said they were treated worse.
Integration and tolerance
A majority of Muslim Canadians agreed that most Muslims coming to Canada want to adopt Canadian customs and ways of life while just 17 per cent thought they want to remain distinct.
Fully 57 per cent of Muslims agreed that immigrants of different races and backgrounds should set aside their cultural backgrounds and try to blend into Canadian culture, and 34 per cent disagreed. But while Muslims over the age of 35 agreed with this by margins of two or three to one, Muslims under the age of 35 were split.
The poll also highlighted some of the ways in which Muslims differ from mainstream opinion: 40 per cent agreed with the statement that “the father in the family must be master in his own home.” Only 21 per cent of non-Muslim Canadians agreed.
And while a 2013 Pew Research poll found that 80 per cent of Canadians agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society, only 36 per cent of Muslims agreed with that statement.
But Muslims surveyed sense that other Canadians are becoming more tolerant. The Environics survey found that 49 per cent believed very few Canadians were hostile to Muslims, an increase of 14 points since 2006. Just 14 per cent thought many or most were hostile to Muslims. And despite some signs of pessimism about the future, 89 per cent of Muslim Canadians report being satisfied with the way things are going in Canada today.