Majority of Canadians worry about relations between Jews and Muslims in wake of Israel-Hamas war

Also, 27% of respondents said they felt Jews were the target of hate expression in Canada. A similar number worry about hate speech toward Palestinians

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Broad swathes of Canadians are concerned about the relationship between the country’s Jewish and Muslim communities, according to a new poll.

The survey conducted by Leger for the Association for Canadian Studies found fifty-five per cent of Canadians worry about relationships between Jews and Muslims in Canada, and 50 per cent worry about the way Muslims interact with non-Muslims.

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“People are framing the war between Israel and Hamas as domestically implying severely strained relations between Muslims and Jews domestically and some protests are reinforcing that impression,” said Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies.

The poll was carried out at the end of October, weeks after Hamas terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,400 people, mostly civilians, including women and children. In response, Israel declared war against Hamas, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2006, and launched a campaign of airstrikes against the 365-square-kilometre territory.

Gaza’s health ministry, which is run by the Hamas government, says more than 10,000 people have been killed, including 4,000 children, but these numbers could not be independently verified.

The Israel-Hamas war has inspired pro-Palestinian rallies across Canada, many of which have featured speakers celebrating the attack on Israel as a form of resistance or calling for the eradication of the State of Israel.

The polling shows that 67 per cent of Canadians aged 55 or older worry about relations between Jews and Muslims, compared to just 43 per cent of those 18 to 34. The concerns are highest in British Columbia (58 per cent), followed by 56 per cent in Alberta and 54 per cent in all other provinces.

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Canadians are also concerned about hate speech directed towards Jews in traditional media and on social media, with 27 per cent saying they felt Jews were the target of hate expression in the country.

Those over the age of 55, at 31 per cent, were most likely to have believed Jews were subject to hateful comments in the media, compared to just 17 per cent between the ages of 18 and 34.

“Clearly, that’s related to the war going on in the region,” said Jedwab. “People sort of have their antenna up. And that’s what they’re seeing across media, both social media and traditional media.”

A quarter of Canadians also worry about hate speech directed towards Palestinians.

Thirty-one per cent of those in the youngest age cohort felt hate speech towards Palestinians was prevalent, compared to 18 per cent of those over the age of 55.

“Usually, younger people see more hate expression on media,” said Jedwab.

However, just nine per cent of Canadians believe they’ve seen hate expression directed towards Muslims or Islam, and only three per cent identified hate expression directed towards Arabs more broadly.

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But there is still wide-ranging fear of Islam in Canada, and the negative views are by far more prevalent in Quebec.

Forty per cent of Canadians hold a negative view of Islam, although just 26 per cent hold negative views of Canadian Muslims themselves. This religious intolerance is more pronounced for Islam: Only 27 per cent hold a negative view of Christians and 20 per cent hold a negative view of Judaism.

These figures, Jedwab said, have remained relatively consistent over time.

Quebec is the most intolerant province when it comes to negative views of Islam (57 per cent) and Canadian Muslims (34 per cent), Judaism (30 per cent) and Canadian Jews (19 per cent). British Columbia, at 38 per cent, holds Islam and Christians in equal contempt.

Some concerns remain about the way immigrants and non-immigrants interact with one another, with 45 per cent saying they’re worried. Notably, young Canadians are most concerned about this (50 per cent), while those aged 35 to 54 were least worried, at 40 per cent.

The survey also asked about Canadians’ views of several ethnic groups.

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Just over one quarter of Canadians have a negative view of Muslims, while 12 per cent view Jews unfavourably. Nearly one-fifth of Canadians hold negative views of Indigenous Peoples, while 12 per cent have negative views of Black Canadians.

However, despite these views, the bulk of hate speech that people say they have seen has to do with Israel and Palestinians. Jedwab said it may be that people are only expressing their views publicly due to the war.

“You may feel negatively towards a particular group, but to what extent does that negativity being activated or you’re acting upon it by expressing that sentiment via social media or other forms of media?” said Jedwab. “But at present, that sentiment is not what we’re seeing expressed. … It doesn’t mean it’s not out there — it is. It’s just not the, in the current context, it’s not what people are seeing.”

The Leger survey was conducted between Oct. 27 and 29 via a web panel of 1,632 Canadians. A margin of error cannot be associated with a panel survey, but, for comparison purposes, a similar-sized probability sample would have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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