OVER the past few weeks, reports have been published in both Canada and Britain about the state of Muslim citizens’ opinion on a broad range of topics. The Canadian poll results were generally hailed as a pleasant surprise, while the British investigation was seen as fresh, depressing evidence that followers of Islam were ultra-conservative in their social attitudes and ambivalent towards violence. Does that point to a huge gap, sociological or even theological, between Canadian and British Muslims? That seems unlikely. What the polls do indicate, though, is a big difference of political atmosphere.
Let’s have a look at the two surveys and the responses they generated. In Canada, it was noted that Muslims resemble their non-Muslims compatriots in seeing the economy and jobs as the country’s biggest concerns. As you might expect, a majority of the Muslim respondents supported the right of Muslim students to pray in government schools, and of Muslim women to wear a niqab, or face veil, at citizenship ceremonies. But these rights (both the subject of recent public arguments) are also supported by a somewhat smaller majority of non-Muslims
Differences between Canada’s 1m followers of Islam and their 33m compatriots did emerge. While nine in ten Muslims agreed with the statement that “taking care of home and kids is as much a man’s work as woman’s work”, gaps opened up when the questioners probed deeper. They found that four in ten Muslim respondents thought the father should be master in his own house, a view held by only two in ten non-Muslims.