Intolerance of Muslim Canadians isn't new

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Discrimination against Muslims within our country is a real problem and Canadians shouldn’t need a survey to believe it.

In an attempt to measure the broad acceptance of Muslims in Canada, 1,028 Canadians took part in an online poll commissioned by Think for Actions and Insights Matter. The survey questions ranged from whether or not Muslims should be treated differently than other Canadians to whether Islam promotes the oppression of women.

While many questions had results that fell into a nearly equal divide of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, some revealed more shared beliefs among respondents. One such belief, held by 78 per cent of respondents, was that Muslims should adopt Canadian customs and values but maintain their religious and cultural practices.

The idea that Muslims should be trying harder to assimilate into Canadian society puts the blame on them for the discrimination they face. It’s a shirking of culpability for the rest of the country’s role in ending it; in recognizing ignorance when it presents itself in ourselves and each other.

Canadians being open to learning and challenging their own preconceived notions about Islam is equally essential, if not more so, in order to remove bigotry and discrimination in Canada.

Another survey question found that 88 per cent of respondents believed Muslims should be treated no differently than any other Canadian. Perhaps most importantly, 72 per cent believed there’s an increasing hatred and fear towards Muslims in Canada.

Mukarram Zaidi, chair of the group who commissioned the survey, suggests that in order to improve Canadian opinions of Islam, young Muslims born and raised in Canada need to become leaders in their communities and become the bridge between Islam and North American Culture.

While the survey shows those who know a Muslim person are more likely to view them positively as a whole, Zaidi’s plan of action puts the responsibility of ending discrimination on Muslim Canadians alone.

Muslim Canadians who face discrimination shouldn’t have to be the only ones responsible for correcting it. Muslims should be accepted as individuals, regardless of whether or not they fit a mold of a Muslim that appeals to non-Muslim Canadians.

The poll gives evidence to approval ratings of Muslims and the discrimination they face based on their religion, however Canadian Muslims have been saying this all along. Hatred towards Muslims is not new, nor is it something that Canadians should need a survey to be able to recognize and address.

Recognizing there is a problem is the first step towards solving it. But the onus needs to be on non-Muslims in Canada to change their behavior, not forcing Muslims to change in order to accommodate ignorance.

— Journal Editorial Board

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