By Alishba Khaliq
A series of three national surveys conducted during early September in Canada by a public affairs practice Angus Reid Global reveal a general decline in the population’s favourability towards religions, with Islam faring the worst opinions followed by Sikhism.
The survey, conducted in 2009 and again last month, measured attitudes towards the major world religions – Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism – in Quebec (Canada’s second most populous province) and in the rest of Canada.
Positive opinions towards all religions outside of Quebec have declined over the last four years, with Christianity and Hinduism down by 1 per cent, Islam by 7 per cent, Sikhism by 6 per cent, Buddhism by 3 per cent and Judaism by 8 per cent. Within Quebec favourability of Sikhism, Buddhism and Hinduism have increased while the Abrahamic religions have each seen a decline of 1 per cent. Islam continues to harbour the most unfavourable opinions both within Quebec and in the rest of Canada, with Christianity remaining the most favourable religion.
Only 16 per cent of the 1,011 adult Quebecers asked whether they held a favourable or unfavourable opinion of each religion answered in favour of Islam (as compared to the 17 per cent who gave the same answer in 2009). While a more substantial decline of 7 per cent (from 31 per cent in 2009 to 24 per cent in 2013) was found in positive opinions towards the religion in the rest of the country.
A demographic breakdown of the participants reveals that those aged between eighteen and thirty-four are most favourable towards Islam with positive attitudes reducing in higher age groups. The opposite is found to be true for the other two Judeo-Christian religions. Those with higher levels of education are more favourably disposed towards all religions with the exception of Christianity – opinions of the latter outside Quebec declining from 79 per cent at High School level to 68 per cent during College and staying relatively level at 69 per cent for the university educated.
The survey also asked people how they would feel if one of their children were to marry adherers of each of the religions. Participants in Quebec and the rest of Canada were most accepting of their children marrying followers of Christianity, with Buddhism following suit as the second favourable religion in Quebec and Judaism in the remainder of the country. The ratio of those finding Muslims as acceptable partners for their children was found to be 1:3 in Quebec, while other Canadians are almost equally divided in opinion; with 30 per cent finding it acceptable for their children to marry a Muslim and 32 per cent seeing it as unacceptable.
The survey has also gauged feelings towards religious attire at a time when a Charter of Quebec Values, proposing a ban on the wearing of religious garments and jewellery at work places throughout the province, is in the process of public consultation. Ninety per cent of those in Quebec and 65 per cent of poll participants from outside the province feel that the niqab (face veil) should not be worn by those working in the public sector. The hijab by comparison is viewed similarly to other religious headwear, with 63 per cent of Quebecers stating that they should not be allowed. About as many Canadians in the rest of the country (65 per cent) are supportive of public sector employees wearing the hijab.