Canadians feel rift growing between Western and Muslim societies: poll

March 24, 2015

By Douglas Todd, Vancouver Sun |

Most Canadians think “irreconcilable” differences exist between Western and Muslim societies, according to polling to be revealed at this week’s Metropolis conference in Vancouver.

Whether it’s the rise of Islamic State zealots, the killing of free-speech advocates in Paris and Copenhagen or disputes over niqabs, the polling shows Canadians are not immune to global anxiety about religion-fuelled conflict.

The Leger Marketing polls found 63 per cent of Canadian Protestants, 62 per cent of Jews, 60 per cent of Catholics and 46 per cent of the non-religious believe Western and Islamic societies are “irreconcilable.”

Even 42 per cent of Canadian Muslims believe the contrast between the West and Islamic cultures was irreconcilable.

The subject of religion and social tension — and how to counteract it — is on the minds of more than 1,000 people attending two related conferences this week in Vancouver.

“It’s quite disconcerting that our poll results consistently show about 60 per cent of Canadians see the West and Islamic society as ‘irreconcilable.’ It puts you up against a dead end,” said Jack Jedwab, vice-president of the Association for Canadian Studies, which commissioned the Leger polls.

The widespread suspicion many Canadians are expressing about religion “is a huge blow to interfaith dialogue,” said Jedwab, who took part Tuesday in Our Whole Society: Bridging the Secular Divide, which aims to create openings for religion to become a more positive force in Canada’s secular society.

With Canadians embroiled in national debates over face-covering niqabs, “self-radicalized” homegrown terrorists and border security, Jedwab will on Thursday afternoon present the findings of his two extensive polls on how Canadians view religion and its potential for tension or reconciliation.

He’ll be doing so as part of the 17th national Metropolis conference, titled Broadening the Conversation: Policy and Practice in Immigration, Settlement and Diversity, which runs Thursday to Saturday.

The belief of a majority of Canadians that the West and Islamic society are locked in inevitable antagonism, Jedwab said, echoes the thesis of political scientist Samuel Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of Political Order.

The Harvard professor argued people’s cultural and religious identities will be the primary source of conflict in the post-Cold War world.

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