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26 July 2006

Canada, Islam could be in conflict: poll

Canada is heading toward conflict with its Muslim population, says the head of a study on Canadian attitudes toward Islam. The study indicated that the majority of Canadians held a negative view of

Muslim countries.

"There are clearly some tensions," said Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies.

"If it is so heavily polarized then the opportunity to generate dialogue may be limited."

Jedwab said Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Canada -- expected to grow to around 1.4 million followers by 2017 from 2001's total of about 600,000.

A poll of 1,500 adults found that 52 per cent had a negative view of the relationship between Western democracies and Muslim countries.

Only 25 per cent had a positive view of the relationship.

In Quebec, 67 per cent said they had a negative view of the relationship between the West and Muslim countries.

In Ontario, 48 per cent said the relationship was negative, 39 per cent said the same in Atlantic Canada, 53 per cent in the Prairies, 49 per cent in Alberta and 50 per cent in British Columbia.

The poll also indicated Canadians had a dim view of democracy's prospects in Muslim countries, with 56 per cent saying they doubted it would take root.

The numbers also indicate foreign policy may become a voting issue in the next election, said Jedwab.

In light of the recent Toronto terror arrests, Jedwab said Canadians now connect international events with domestic issues.

"Foreign policy, in the short period the Conservatives have been in power, has emerged at the very top of the agenda," he said.

The study was based on polling by Leger Marketing commissioned by the association.

The survey of 1,500 adult Canadians was conducted between July 11-16 and results that are considered to be accurate to within plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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