Poll in Canada shows many Muslims feel discriminated against

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SHAFAQNA – While most Muslims in Canada feel they’re treated better than Muslims in other western countries, they still feel singled out for discrimination because of their faith, a new national survey says.

The poll by Environics asked the fastest-growing religious minority in Canada about pride and belonging, Muslim identity and practice, discrimination and perceptions of domestic support for violent extremism.

It found 84 per cent of Canadian Muslims believe they are treated better than those living in other western countries, up from 77 per cent in 2006. Most (83 per cent) said they were very proud to be Canadian, up from 73 per cent in 2006. The survey found 87 per cent said it is important for Muslim communities to work with government agencies to address radicalization. Their greatest source of pride, they said, was living in a free country and Canada’s diversity. Most (79 per cent) participated in the last federal election. The majority said what they least liked about Canada was the cold weather.

“The survey results broadly reinforce my own experiences in Canada and in the Canadian Muslim community,” said Idris Elbakri, president of the Manitoba Islamic Association. “Canadian Muslims love and appreciate Canada,” said the radiological physicist. They’ve been able to establish a strong religious identity here that’s meshed with “a strong sense of belonging,” he said. The number of Manitobans who identify as Muslim grew to 12,405 in 2011 from 3,525 in 1991, according to Statistics Canada.

“Locally, we are also seeing this with our community organizations and mosques, which are moving away from being ‘by Muslims for Muslims’ to being more open to and interested in serving all,” said Elbakri.

When the survey asked for their opinion of Islam, 42 per cent of non-Muslim Canadians said they have a positive opinion — down from 49 per cent in the 2006 survey. The survey 10 years ago found people’s impressions of Islam improve the more they have contact with Muslims. Non-Muslim Canadians who had frequent contact with Muslim Canadians had a more positive impression of Islam (70 per cent) than those who encountered Muslims rarely or never in their lives (36 per cent).

A little more than half (54 per cent) of Muslims believe the views of their fellow Canadians toward Islam are generally positive. Just over a third (35 per cent) said they experienced discrimination in Canada in the past five years: two-thirds said at work, and one-third said in public spaces. One quarter said they’ve experienced difficulty crossing borders because of race, ethnicity or religion. A third believe the next generation of Muslims will face more discrimination and stereotyping.

“The concerns voiced by young Muslims about discrimination are real, and young Muslims could be more sensitive to it because Canada is the only country they know,” said Elbakri.

“Our hope is that Canada will continue to evolve and grow to be a country for all of its citizens, from those whose roots go back millennia to the newcomers who are experiencing our winters for the first time.”

The survey of Muslims was conducted by telephone from Nov. 19, 2015, to Jan. 23, 2016. The margin of error was plus or minus four per cent in 19 out of 20 samples.

The survey of non-Muslims was also by telephone and conducted between Feb. 6 and 15, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per cent in 19 of 20 samples.

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