Sunday, April 26, 2009

Silly media take on religious poll

Featured below is a misleading media take on a possibly misleading poll commissioned by Mclean’s Magazine. It was published by Canada News Wire. Read the report and see my comments following. Note the headline and prepared to be shocked.

A disturbing new poll shows the limit of our tolerance

TORONTO, April 23 /CNW/ - Canadians like to think of their country as a
model of multi-ethnic and multicultural harmony - a mixed mosaic to which
other countries can aspire. But when it comes to the major faiths other than
Christianity, a new poll conducted for Maclean's finds many Canadians harbour
shocking biases.

Almost Half Say Mainstream Islam Encourages Violence

When asked if they thought "the mainstream beliefs" of the major
religions "encourage violence or are mostly peaceful," only 10 per cent said
they thought Christianity teaches violence. But fully 45 per cent said they
believe Islam does, and a sizable 26 per cent saw Sikhism as encouraging
The poll, by Angus Reid Strategies for Maclean's, surveyed 1,002 randomly
selected Canadians on religion. As Maclean's Ottawa bureau chief John Geddes,
reports, the findings strongly suggest minority religions aren't getting a
fair shake. Sorting out complex issues - like the real meanings of Islamic
terms like "fatwa" and "sharia," or the factions in the Sikh community - can
undeniably be tricky. Still, when it comes to respecting the mainstream
beliefs of minority faiths, Canada is quite obviously still a much-flawed work
in progress.


- 70% of Canadians hold a positive view of Christianity

- 41% hold a positive view of Hinduism

- 30% hold a positive view of Sikhism

- 45% believe mainstream Islam encourages violence

- 44% would not want their child to marry a person of Jewish faith. Even
fewer would be comfortable with a Sikh or a Muslim.

- Nationally, 62% think laws and norms should not be modified to
accommodate minorities. In Quebec, that number rises to 74%.

Fair shake?

When Mclean’s Ottawa Bureau Chief, John Geddes says minority religions aren’t getting a “fair shake”, what does he mean? Do we infer that Canadians do not understand these religions and if they did then they would consider them more favourably? Do we infer that Canadians do understand these religions and simply don’t like them – and that is not fair?

How would that not be fair? You have a perfect right to dislike a religion for whatever reason until the Human Rights tribunals take away your rights.

Who are these Canadians with these “shocking biases”?

This is a poll of randomly selected Canadians. Do we know whether any of the people who responded to the survey are themselves self-described members of some of these religions? We are not told. An atheist might have a certain bias towards these religions, considering all of them to be equally flawed. A religious person would be biased in favour of his or her own faith.

Considering that more than 70% of Canadians hold a positive view of Christianity should not be surprising since that is the number of Canadians who are identified in the national census as Christians.

Marrying outside of your faith

It is common that people of one faith prefer their children to marry within their faith. What are we to make of the numbers showing that 44% of those polled don’t want their children to marry Jews? If the people who responded to this were Jews, that would be news. But does it imply that 56% of the respondents would have no problem with this? We don’t know. But, if it did, that would indicate a fairly good level of tolerance.

Mainstream religious beliefs

What does “respecting the mainstream beliefs of minority religions” mean? Let’s consider the majority religion for a moment.

What are the mainstream beliefs of Christianity? Ask a Catholic and you will get one answer, ask a Baptist, another, and so on. Belief, first in God and then in Jesus as the redeemer, would seem to be pretty much the bedrock of all Christian faiths, but that is not much to go on. When you consider that there are some 38,000 different Christian sects which differ in their emphasis of scripture or ritual, one can see some difficulty in describing mainstream beliefs in a telephone poll.

Consider Islam, the one most people think preaches violence. What are its “mainstream beliefs”? Would we identify them from imams like Dr. Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress, which self-describes itself as the largest Muslim activist organization in the country, who stated on public television that all Israeli Jews over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for Muslim suicide bombers – a double condemnation since it tacitly supports suicide bombing? Would the website of the Toronto mosque that supported political jihad be another source of mainstream Islamic belief? And I could go on with other examples.

But, the point is why does the editor of this newswire story assume that the mainstream beliefs of religions are peaceful and Canadians are wrong to think they are not? Surely that bias is itself suspect.

I think Canadians have a very good idea of these religions and it is the writer of the story who needs to give his head shake. It is the reason why it is death in this country for a politician to start mixing religion into political campaigns. Just ask John Tory or Stockwell Day.


On reflection, I should not have dismissed the surprise in this poll so lightly. I am surprised that the number of people who think Islam promotes violence is as low as it is, given the worldwide publicity Islam has been getting since 9/11, the Mohammed cartoons, the Hamas/Hezbollah fights with Israel, the pronouncements of the president of Iran and the Durban I and II conferences. I suspect this is because our authorities (recall that the original announcements of the arrest of the 18 wannabe terrorists in Mississauga made not a mention of the one common factor that they were all Muslims), as do the American and British political establishments, go out of their way to soft pedal Islam. These numbers would suggest they are doing a good job of covering up the reality.

1 comment:

fauja said...

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best wishes.