A survey has just come out that shows that Canadians are complex: not as Islamophobic as one might think but still finding the niqab problematic for citizenship ceremonies. Which means plenty of fodder for a desperate party to try to use Islamophobia to distract from other issues and try to get some votes.
First, the survey clearly distinguishes discomfort with niqab from discomfort with hijab (51% vs 22%). A majority would prefer that women in Canada did not wear the niqab (56%), but that it should be a matter of personal choice (76%). The key: "not my place to say": 64% for niqab, 77% for hijab.
Second, only a minority (a loud one according to my twitter feed) believe that all women who wear the niqab are forced by men to do so (38%).
Third, the view that Islam is anti-women in some ways might seem high at 62% but is essentially tied with the view that many religions can be described as anti-women (61%).
Fourth, the big ironic twist: political leaders should avoid making statements on religious customs (60%) [which might explain why some folks insist the niqab is just a cultural thing and not a religious one--good luck making that dividing line clear] but 64% agree that its appropriate to have rules for what to wear at citizenship ceremony.
Who is least tolerant? The usual suspects: rural, older, Conservative, Quebec, Bloc voters.
I wish the survey had a question about public servants wearing niqabs since Harper has expanded the intolerance gambits to include possible restrictions on public servants and it was part of the Quebec Charter of Xenophobia discussion.
Still, this survey tends to show that more Canadians are actually pretty Canadian: not my role to impose my values on others, let's be tolerant of minorities. That one third of Canada is relatively intolerant is not a surprise since one is not going to get complete agreement on this, and those who are least tolerant in general (rural, older folks) are going to be intolerant when it comes to the religion of others. And any survey will have a significant number of cranky people--just look at those US surveys about Obama's religion or where he was born. Ignorance will always exist, alas, in significant numbers. But this survey provides some solace: that Canadians are not as worried about their culture as the loudest voices might suggest.