Islamophobia: Survey suggests highest in Quebec 

"Based on misconceptions,” says Salam El-Mousawi co-founder of Muslim Awareness Week, about a recent survey suggesting Islamophobia is higher in Quebec compared to the rest of Canada. Felisha Adam reports.

A recent survey done by Angus Reid suggests Islamophobia within Quebec is more prevalent compared to the rest of Canada – with more than half of respondents in the province holding an unfavourable view of Islam.

“It’s sad, but for someone that lives in Quebec it’s not surprising at all,” says Stephen Brown CEO of the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

In one part of the survey, participants were asked about their views towards Islam – and could answer based on four categories – Very Positive, Positive, Negative, and Very Negative.

Views of Islam in Canada according to Angus Reid Survey conducted in February 2023

Views of Islam in Canada according to Angus Reid Survey conducted in February 2023

30% of participants in Quebec selected they held ‘Very Negative’ views toward Islam a percentage almost double the rest of the Canada, at 16%.

“It poses real questions about root causes,” says Brown, “why do people feel this particular way about Muslims? … it’s not because of contact that people have with Muslims directly. It’s because of what they’re hearing about us,” he added.

“There is a big machine that feeds this type of understanding or misunderstanding between Quebecers. And as a result, we will see these kinds of numbers specifically in Quebec,” says Salam El-Mousawi the Co-Founder, of Muslim Awareness Week addressing the high percentage.

Both El- Mousawi and Brown say, there has been long-standing anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric by the Quebec Government, something shown in Quebec’s secularism law, known as Bill 21, which bans some public servants in positions of authority from wearing religious symbols, like a hijab, while on the job, as being part of that.

For Brown this is not the first survey to showcase this information, “the Quebec government really needs to look closely about how it’s speaking about a large swath of its population. It’s driving negative feelings and stereotypes about its own citizens.

The survey shows that while Bill 21 is unfavourable to the majority of Canada, with only 25% supporting it more than half of respondents in Quebec at 57% said they favoured it.

“It’s counterproductive to society’s interest,” says Brown, “It’s dangerous for the lives of Muslim citizens. And it’s terrible for social cohesion.”

For El-Mousawi this survey alongside others that have been created is not surprising “it’s normal that (Quebecers) get the fear from this religion…because they see that their government is taking some action against it. And unfortunately, it’s based on misconception.”

As the Co-Founder of Muslim Awareness Week, El-Mousawi says more education and awareness about the religion is needed in the province, something the government of Quebec must also support.

“The education and awareness comes through and mutual dialog and openness and questions, and all Muslims are open to that,” he added.

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