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A recent survey by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute shows a frightening amount of extremism within the Canadian-Muslim community. A significant minority support terrorist groups and establishing a global caliphate. The results substantiate the notion that the Canadian-Muslim community is relatively moderate, but plenty of extremism resides in America’s northern neighbor to provide a base for Islamists.
Sixty-five percent completely repudiate Al-Qaeda and only 3% view it positively. About one-fourth view the Muslim Brotherhood positively, though some of these may falsely believe it is a moderate group. One-fifth of respondents had a favorable opinion of Iran. Hezbollah and Hamas have favorability ratings of 17% and 15%, respectively. About 13% view Israel positively, which is quite high for a Muslim community.
The authors of the study admit that the extremist minority poses a significant risk.
“From a security perspective, it is difficult to know if a 65% rate of repudiation (of Al-Qaeda) is re-assuring or a 35% failure to repudiate troubling,” they wrote.
The survey shows that a substantial majority of Canadian-Muslims reject key tenets of Islamist doctrine and oppose terrorist groups, though significant extremist minorities exist.
Nearly half disagree with the objective of establishing a global Islamic state. A little more than one-fifth (22%) don’t want Sharia law at all, including voluntary courts for Muslims to settle civil disputes based on Islam. About half favor such courts. About 8% want Muslims to be required to use Sharia arbitration courts, and 7% want the courts to decide all matters for Muslims, which is effectively Sharia-based governance.
JihadWatch.org, the website of Islam expert Robert Spencer, was less welcoming of the results. It emphasized that 62% of Canadian-Muslims want some form of Sharia. It warned that limited Sharia, such as in the form of Sharia tribunals, “is just a temporary condition on the way to having more.”
Dr. Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, wrote that the survey shows that a majority of Canadian-Muslims think highly of their government, whereas other Muslim communities in the West tend to view their governments as hostile entities. He took particular comfort in their positive attitudes towards freedom and allowing independent thought.
Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism, an anti-Islamist organization based in Washington, D.C., told FrontPage that some of the questions in the survey “are too broad and vague” and gives an exaggerated impression of the levels of extremism.
“Canadian Islam is more moderate, diverse and more open to debate than American or even British Islam,” says Schwartz.
He said in an interview that the moderate beliefs of most Canadian-Muslims are because of the types of immigrants that have come to the country. Many are secularists from North Africa, Sufis, Ismailis and Muslims who had to live with other faiths in places like East Africa and India. However, the survey found that only a minority of Muslim immigrants arriving today reject terrorist groups.
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