Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Muslims, Socio-Cultural Integration, and Pride in Canadian Democracy

Academic journal article Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal

Muslims, Socio-Cultural Integration, and Pride in Canadian Democracy

Article excerpt


In recent years, Canada has experienced an increase in hate crimes against Muslims. For example, police reported that hate crimes against Muslims increased by 61 percent between between 2014 and 2015 (Fry 2018). A recent example of hate crime against Muslims include the shooting in Quebec city's Islamic Cultural Centre which resulted in six worshipers being killed and 19 injured. Islomophobia, or the anti-Muslim climate of hate and fear which presents Muslims as unwanted and a security threat, is not specific to Canada. It is also widespread and on the rise in Europe and the United States (see Banting 2014; Clements 2013; Fekete 2009; Minsky 2017). It is rooted in the idea of Islamic exceptionalism (for example, see Hamid 2016), which views Islam as different from Christianity (and Judaism) in how it relates to politics. State and religion are conceptualized as intertwined and inseparable in Islam, while they are viewed as being separate and distinct among Christians. Hamid contends that this key distinction has made Islam resistant to secularization and democracy. An offshoot of this belief is that Muslim immigrants are unable to integrate or unwilling to fit in in their new (Christian) society because their religious allegiance prevents national loyalties rooted in the separation of religion and politics (see Cesari 2006; Foner and Alba 2008). In Huntington's (1996, 151) words, "the underlying problem for the West... is Islam" (also see Bawer 2010; Caldwell 2009; Foner and Alba 2008; Gellner 1997).

In this paper, I will address the "integration anxiety" (Ley 2013) prevalent among immigrant-receiving societies by focusing on Muslim immigrants' sense of belonging and their support for democracy in Canada. Using the General Social Survey Cycle 27 (2013), I will test whether Muslim immigrants' levels of social-cultural integration and pride in Canadian democracy differ from other religious denominations and whether integration affects support for democracy. Results show that there is little ground for fear or integration anxiety about Muslim immigrants in Canada.


"Integration anxiety" about Muslims in Canada is partly related to the increase in the number of Muslim immigrants and refugees in recent decades. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, the percentage of Muslim Canadians doubled each decade from .9 percent in 1991 to 1.8 percent in 2001 and 3.2 percent in 2011. By 2030, the Muslim population in Canada is expected to reach 6.6 percent of the total population (Pew 2011). The anxiety is also related to a) the fact that the majority of Muslims in Canada are immigrants (72%) and most are recent immigrants from the Middle East, South Asia, and Africa; b) controversies over Sharia law, the hejab and burqa, and fear of violent extremists; and c) the violent Jihadist movement that has shocked North America and the Western world. These events, coupled with the perceived incompatibility of the cultural values and beliefs of Muslims with the (Christian) majority host culture, have resulted in the Muslim question becoming the "subject of one of the hottest debates of our time" (Kazemipur 2014, 4) and Islam becoming the key site of demarcation between Muslims and other groups in Canada and Europe. Consequently, there has been intensified pressure on Muslims to integrate by identifing with the host society and accepting its core values, such as democracy and gender equality (see Statham and Tillie 2016).

Integration is a contested, normative, and politicized concept (see Fokkema and de Hass 2015; Frideres 2008; Li 2003). Conceptually, the idea of integration grew out of, but is distinguishable from, the often exaggerated old American assimilation model which required immigrants to adjust to and fully merge into the dominant culture without a reciprocal adjustment of the host society. Although the new assimilation model (Alba and Nee 2003,14) is not one-directional Anglo-conformity and allows for changes in both mainstream and minority immigrant culture, it still envisions group convergence as the mainstream expands to accommodate cultural alternatives. …

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