Anti-Muslim sentiments on rise in Europe, two out of five Canadians also feel that way

Published November 1, 2008

A veiled Muslim woman walks along a road in the town in Blackburn, northern England. Negative sentiments against Muslims and Jews are on the rise in Western Europe, except in Great Britain, says a Pew survey.

Negative sentiments against Muslims and Jews are on the rise in “old Europe” more than anywhere else around the world today, a survey released in September by the Pew Research Center’s Pew Global Attitudes Project has shown.

In contrast, negative attitudes towards Christians in Europe are “less common than negative ratings of Muslims or Jews,” the Pew survey said. Nonetheless, it noted that negative attitudes towards Christians are on the rise in a few countries, particularly in Turkey – to 72 per cent from 52 per cent in 2004.

Meanwhile, a recent Leger Marketing poll has shown that nearly two out of five Canadians hold anti-Muslim sentiments.

The Leger survey, commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies, shows that “more needs to be done to combat discrimination and anti-Muslim sentiment,” according to the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN).
Anti-Jewish sentiment also increased slightly, with the number of Canadians offering favourable views of Jews dropping to 73 per cent this year from 78 per cent.

The poll, conducted among 1,500 respondents across the country, showed an increase in the number of Canadians with an unfavourable view of Muslims – to 36 per cent this year from 27 per cent. (Respondents were asked whether they had a favourable or unfavourable view of Muslims).

The unfavourable view of Muslims was more pronounced in French Canada. “It is indicative from this poll that more needs to be done by Canadian Muslims to educate the public about Islam and the Muslim community,” said Ihsaan Gardee, CAIR-CAN community relations director. “At the same time, the poll speaks to the need for the active integration of Canada’s growing Muslim population to combat Islamophobia and discrimination.”
Mr. Gardee noted that earlier studies conducted by the Trudeau Foundation and the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report indicate that Canadians who personally know Muslims tend to have a favourable or highly favourable impression of them and the Islamic faith.
CAIR-CAN also said that it was “deeply concerned about the general rising trend in unfavourable views of minorities in Canada, including anti-Semitism.”

Mr. Gardee said “any increase in anti-Semitism and Islamophobia is unacceptable, and concrete initiatives are required to fight against such intolerance.”

The Pew survey, conducted in 24 countries, showed that in Spain, 56 per cent of respondents rated Muslims unfavourably, compared with 50 per cent in Germany, 46 per cent in Poland, 38 per cent in France and 32 per cent in Russia. About one in four in Britain and the United States (23 per cent) had unfavourable views against Muslims.

Meanwhile, 46 per cent of respondents in Spain expressed negative feelings towards Jews, compared with 25 per cent in Germany, 36 per cent in Poland, 20 per cent in France and 34 per cent in Russia.

“These percentages are all higher than obtained in comparable Pew surveys taken in recent years,” the Washington-based Pew Center said. “Great Britain stands out as the only European country included in the survey where there has not been a substantial increase in anti-Semitic attitudes.” Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, said the negative sentiments could be attributed to “some backlash toward minority groups going on in Europe as a consequence of the EU’s (European Union) expansion and globalization. Some of the ethnocentricity is obviously related to attitudes towards immigration.”

The survey also showed that “older people and those with less education are more anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim than are younger people or those with more education.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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