Jonathan Kay: Opposition to covered faces is not a sign of Islamophobia

Canadian_Multiculturalism_Integrated_Book_DraftJon Kay on the latest Angus Reid survey on Muslims and radicalization, and the general questions on religious garb:

The Angus Reid numbers on religious garb were even more interesting — since they allow for religion-by-religion comparisons. Seventy-three percent of respondents support the right of women to wear a hijab (head and neck covering, with the face exposed), 88% support a nun’s habit, 80% a Jewish man’s kippa, 86% a star of David pendant, and 89% a crucifix.

Those last two numbers are telling: If anti-Semitism truly were an acute problem in mainstream society (which I don’t believe is true), then one would not expect to observe a mere three-point difference between the approval rate on stars of David and crucifixes.

And even that tiny three-point blip may actually overstate the amount of anti-Jewish bias in Canada — because in the three largest Anglo-majority provinces (B.C., Alberta and Ontario), there is no statistically significant pro-crucifix bias at all. In fact, in Alberta — that supposed bastion of evangelical Christianity and small-mindedness —  more people support the star of David than the crucifix (93% compared to 90%).

In Quebec, on the other hand, 81% support the crucifix, versus 71% the star of David. Both numbers are somewhat lower than anywhere else in the country — a symptom of that province’s fixation on secularism. But the 10-point gap between Jewish star and christian cross is hardly shocking: Many Quebec cultural nationalists (rightly) view the aesthetic trappings of christianity as part of their heritage. As Pauline Marois showed us during her brief and disastrous run as premier, the political expression of this view can be cranky and bigoted. But it typically does not rise to the level of “anti-Semitism” in the way that I would use that serious term.

It also is interesting to compare the national numbers on support for a woman’s right to wear a hijab (73%) versus a nun’s habit (88%), since the two forms of dress are, above the shoulders at least, aesthetically similar.

Jonathan Kay: Opposition to covered faces is not a sign of Islamophobia

Link to Angus Reid survey here.

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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