TORONTO, September 10, 2010 - Tomorrow is the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre. Apart from the persistent security concerns that emerged in the aftermath of the attacks, one of the major preoccupations was the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims within countries like the United States and Canada and the relationships between the West and counties with large Muslim populations.
In the United States this year’s 9-11 commemorations will likely be overshadowed by controversies over the construction of an Islamic Centre near the site of ground zero and the threat by a marginal Florida pastor to publicly burn the Koran which has unfortunately captured international media interest. Although the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims is the object of ongoing attention, these recent controversies have perhaps made the relationship appear even more problematic.
While Canada has not known such high profile controversies, the recent arrests of a number of Muslims accused of planning attacks on Canadian institutions has also contributed to moving the relationship to the centre of media attention.
To look at how wide the gap is perceived to be in the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the International Association for the Study of Canada (a division of the Association for Canadian Studies) and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation commissioned the firms Leger Marketing in Canada and Caravan in the United States to ask several questions around immigration, integration and diversity which included the following: Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree that “Muslims share our values”. In Canada the question gains relevance as Governments have made the theme of shared values an important part of the message around diversity.The surveys were conducted via the web during the week of September 6th, 2010 with 1700 respondents in Canada and 1000 in the United States. The margin of error for an equivalent sample in a phone survey would respectively be 2.3 points and 3.5 points 19 times out of 20.
As observed below there are strong similarities in Canada and the United States in responses to the question of whether Muslims share our values. In each country some three in ten respondents agree. Disagreement is slightly greater in Canada with approximately 55% that don’t think “Muslims share our values” compared to 50.3% in the United States. More Americans than Canadians say that they do not know or prefer not to respond.