I am often asked questions along the lines of "Where are the moderate Muslims that you assure us do exist?" and I dutifully provide lists of names and organizations, then confess that they are largely fractured, isolated, intimidated, and ineffectual. Listing anti-Islamist individuals is one thing; learning that a respected pollster finds that a fifth of the Muslim population of Canada thinks "Israel is right on just about everything" is quite another. (And I am assuming that a Muslim who admires Israel is by definition a moderate.)
Conrad Winn, founder and president of Compas Polling, one of Canada's top political opinion surveyors, tells the Jewish Tribune that this conclusion stems not from a specific poll but from an analysis of many polls over the years. Winn explains it better than I can:
Quite often it is a reaction against what they would view as extremist leaders in their own communities or in their country of origin. This is not unusual; people who lived under the Soviet regime for many years believed that if the Soviet tyrant said that everything was awful in the United States and they knew that the tyrants lied about what went on the Soviet Union, that maybe everything was perfect in the United States and there was never poverty, potholes or crime. So quite often despots, whether they're leaders of despotic tyrannies where Muslims came from or their own community leaders for whom they don't have huge respect, will provoke some of the members of the community to the extreme opposite side. …
This pattern is not unusual in human nature. Quite often in societies that demand adherence to an official point of view you get people rebelling. … These people get very upset with, let's say, [Yasir] Arafat's corruption, and that sort of thing. Totalitarian communities are never entirely successful because they do make some of their members really upset. The people who are upset with the failures of their own communities and society often go to the other side.
How reliable is Winn's data? He is confident of standing on solid ground: "polls tend to be a pretty honest reflection of how people feel because people tend to think they don't have to fear anything when they're talking to an anonymous interviewer on the telephone."
(1) This information does not come as a total surprise; in 1994, I published an article titled "Palestinians Who Praise Israel" and the past decade has produced more such examples, including statements and polls. Those, however, concern Palestinians and other Arabs actually dealing with Israel, not Muslims living in Canada, abstracted from the harsh realities of the Middle East.
(2) For context, see my weblog entry, "How Many Arabs and Muslims Accept Israel?"
(3) This extremely positive piece of news deserves intensive study, both in Canada and elsewhere.
(4) It complements Nonie Darwish's organization, "Arabs for Israel," founded in February of this year. (August 26, 2004)
Apr. 10, 2011 update: There's now a "British Muslims for Israel."