‘Fear is the great­est fac­tor’

Sur­vey finds Cana­di­ans worry about rise of racism against Mus­lims

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - BILL GRAV­E­LAND

CAL­GARY — A sur­vey sug­gests Cana­di­ans have a gen­er­ally pos­i­tive im­pres­sion of Mus­lims but that view doesn’t ap­ply to some of the re­li­gion’s lead­er­ship and beliefs.

The poll, com­mis­sioned by Think for Ac­tions and In­sights Mat­ter, found 78% of Cana­di­ans agreed Mus­lims should adopt Cana­dian cus­toms and val­ues but main­tain their re­li­gious and cul­tural prac­tices. Some 88% of those sur­veyed said Mus­lims should be treated no dif­fer­ently than any other Cana­dian.

But 72% of re­spon­dents also be­lieved there has been an in­creas­ing cli­mate of ha­tred and fear to­wards Mus­lims in Canada and that it will get worse.

Re­sults of the poll — an on­line sur­vey of 1,048 Cana­di­ans done from March 13 to Aug. 12 — were re­leased Satur­day at The Unity Con­fer­ence in Cal­gary on Is­lam­o­pho­bia, dis­crim­i­na­tion and sys­temic racism.

“The big­gest take­away is Cana­di­ans who are friends with a Mus­lim or know a Mus­lim in­di­vid­ual have a pos­i­tive view of Is­lam and Mus­lims and are more wel­com­ing to them,” said Mukar­ram Zaidi, chair of the group that com­mis­sioned the sur­vey.

“Fear is the great­est fac­tor. The ma­jor­ity of Cana­di­ans be­lieve the is­sue of racism has in­creased. They are con­cerned about the is­sue of gen­eral racism and hate crimes, re­li­gious dis­crim­i­na­tion, ho­mo­pho­bia and anti-Semitism,” he added.

Pub­lic per­cep­tion isn’t all pos­i­tive. The sur­vey found 56% be­lieved that Is­lam sup­presses women’s rights. There was a 54% ap­proval for imams and 35% for Mus­lim lead­er­ship.

“There needs to be work done within the Mus­lim com­mu­nity and their lead­er­ship to un­der­stand that the com­mon per­son does not hold a lot of re­spect for what they’re do­ing,” said Zaidi.

“Chil­dren born and raised in North Amer­ica need to be­come an imam, be­cause when they stand up and speak, they can speak English clearly and they can re­late Is­lam to North Amer­i­can cul­ture.”

Cal­gary Imam Syed So­har­wardy, founder of Mus­lims Against Ter­ror­ism and the Is­lamic Supreme Coun­cil of Canada, un­der­stands why Cana­di­ans would be sus­pi­cious of Mus­lim lead­er­ship. He said many imams dis­cuss only re­li­gious teach­ing and moral­ity when they should speak out against fa­nati­cism, ex­trem­ism and in­tol­er­ance.

“Many Mus­lim lead­ers do not con­demn ISIL, the Tal­iban, al-Qaida,” said So­har­wardy. “A lot of imams are do­ing it, but not enough.”

So­har­wardy, who was born in Pak­istan, said imams should be flu­ent in English or French and have a good un­der­stand­ing of Cana­dian so­ci­ety.

“I think most of the imams, who come from over­seas and out­side of Canada, they still live in si­los. They still do not help people to in­te­grate in the main­stream Cana­dian so­ci­ety.”

So­har­wardy has per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence about the need for good lan­guage skills when talk­ing to Cana­dian-born Mus­lims.

“At our mosque I speak in English and Urdu, like a bilin­gual sort of thing. My own son says, ‘Papa, when you speak English that is fine, but as soon as you start talk­ing Urdu, you just turn me off’ — and he un­der­stands it.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS fIlE

Imam Syed So­har­wardy says imams should be flu­ent in English or French and have a good un­der­stand­ing of Cana­dian so­ci­ety.

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