Muslim Women More Likely to Experience Discrimination Than Other Canadian Women

Muslim women are more likely to experience discrimination than Canadian women of other faith communities and remain on the fringes of political power in Canada, according to two groundbreaking reports released today by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW).

The first report entitled, Triple Jeopardy: Muslim Women’s Experience of Discrimination, points to the fact that Muslim women have three strikes against them:

  • 84% of Muslim women are members of visible minorities
  • Gender discrimination persists within Muslim and mainstream society
  • Religion – affinity to a faith community suffering from anti-Muslim sentiment post 9/11

The second report entitled, Muslim Women’s Civic Participation: From Polling Booths to Parliament, reveals that Muslim women are the least likely among the faith communities to vote and they are absent from federal, provincial and municipal politics.

“These reports paint a disturbing picture for Muslim women in Canada,” said Razia Jaffer, CCMW’s National President. “Our earlier research revealed that Muslim women have the highest under-employment and unemployment rates compared to other Canadian women and now we learn that they experience higher rates of discrimination.”

“The fact that they are absent from the corridors of power and tend to abstain from voting in general elections does not bode well for improving this situation,” said Ms. Jaffer. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

The report on discrimination examines the issue from three perspectives: self-assessment by Muslims; public perception of discrimination against Muslims; and the public’s comfort level while dealing with Muslim and other faith communities. Key findings in the report include:

  • Muslim women are the most discriminated of the faith communities for which the data are available. About one in three (30 per cent) of Muslim women reported having experienced one or more episodes of discrimination or unfair treatment. The Jewish community followed next with 23 per cent reporting similar experiences.
  • An overwhelming majority of Canadians in every region agree that Muslims are the main target of discrimination. 80 per cent of the Canadians questioned in 2004 said that Muslims encounter one or more incidents of discrimination or unfair treatment.
  • Canadians are comfortable in dealing with all faith and ethnic communities. However, their comfort levels vary depending on the community they are dealing with:
  • 84 per cent of the Canadians would be comfortable with a Muslim teaching at their children’s school; the corresponding figures for other communities were in the mid-90s;
  • 86 per cent had no problem with a Muslim boss, versus 96 per cent for the Jewish and 97 per cent for the black;
  • 61 per cent would be at ease if their daughter or son married a Muslim, while 83 per cent said the same about the Jewish and the black;
  • However, about one in three (30 per cent) Canadians will not likely vote for a political party led by a Muslim; a Jewish leader drew that response from 12 per cent of the respondents, and the blacks fared better, with only 8 per cent.

The report on civic participation examined Muslim women’s voter turnout rates in federal, provincial and municipal elections; involvement in party politics; and reasons for abstaining from voting. Highlights of the report are as follows:

Muslims are the least likely of the faith communities to exercise the franchise. They are one-third less likely to vote than the Hindus and Sikhs, with whom they share some key demographic characteristics, and 40% less likely than the Jewish community, which is estimated to have the highest voter turnout rate.

Muslim women have a lower propensity to vote than men. Only 39% are estimated to have cast ballot in the 2000 federal general election, as compared with 45% for males. Muslim female voter turnout rate increased to 43% in the 2004 federal general election, but did not keep pace with the males 50% of whom voted that year.

While a Muslim male won a seat in the Alberta legislature in the mid-1970s, it wasn’t until 1993 that a Muslim woman contested in a federal election. In the 1997 and 2000 federal elections, there was only one Muslim female candidate running on the ticket of a major party.

The number of Muslim female candidates increased to four in 2004. They accounted for about 24% of all Muslim candidates who ran for any party, including the small ones, that year.

Muslim women contest elections as Canadians who identify themselves with Islam, and hold a range of views on economic, political and social issues. At the national level, they have represented centrist and left-of-the-centre parties, including the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois.

While the NDP nominated three of the four Muslim female candidates in 2004 federal election, no Muslim female has ever been nominated by the Conservative Party or its forerunners.

At present, there are only two Muslim women serving in a provincial or federal legislature: Fatima Huda-Pépin, member of the Québec National Assembly and Yasmin Ratansi, Member of Parliament at the federal level.

“These reports provide important baseline data that will enable the CCMW, policy makers and community partners to measure the degree to which Muslim women’s situation in Canadian society is improving,” said Daood Hamdani, author of the two reports. “The data merit close examination by government, industry and the social service sector.”

Canadian Council of Muslim Women is a pro-faith organization committed to equity, equality and empowerment of Canadian Muslim women.

For further information, contact:
Dr. Daood Hamdani, 613-226-6960
Nuzhat Jafri, National Board Member, CCMW, 416-487-8037