WASHINGTON, May 15 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) - The number of Muslims has thrived in Canada as a census shows that Islam has become the number one non-Christian faith in Quebec and Canada as a whole, a leading Canadian newspaper reported Wednesday, May 14.
The number of Quebec Muslims increased by almost 1.5 times between 1991 and 2001, The Montreal Gazette said, quoting the 2001 Canadian census made public by the official Statistics Canada on Tuesday, May 13.
The census attributed the obvious increase to Muslims immigration from south Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, making Islam the fastest growing religion in the country.
It also showed that the 108,620 Muslims in Quebec were up by 141.8 percent from a decade earlier.
Two years ago, Muslims made up only 2 per cent of this country's population, the census said.
"Now Islam is going to be a Western religion and we look forward to making a positive contribution. We hope that this will help to bring the world closer together," the Gazette quoted as saying Salaam Elmenyawi, chairperson of the Muslim Council of Montreal and a chaplain at Concordia University.
Bashir Hussain, chairperson of the Montreal Chapter of the Council of Muslim Communities in Canada, remembers when there were only a handful of Muslims in Montreal in the early 1960s.
"Now we have about 30 mosques and places of prayer, and it's still not enough," he stressed.
Jack Jedwab, executive director of the Association for Canadian Studies, also highlighted an increasing number of Muslim students among the Muslim community in Canada.
"By the time the data are collected in the 2011 census, if they are collected, there may be more Muslim than Protestant students in Montreal schools," he told the daily.
The census shows that for the first time Muslims outnumber Jews, a demographic that could ultimately affect this country's position vis-a-vis the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"I would have to say with a caution that, yes, of course it is going to have an effect because politicians respond, of course to votes," said John Carson, a professor of Canadian foreign policy at the University of Toronto.
According to the census, the number of Jews also increased between 1991 and 2001, but only by 3.7 per cent to 329,995.
And the proportion they represent of the total Canadian population declined to 1.1 per cent from 1.2 per cent.
The census data show Roman Catholics are still by far the largest group in Quebec.
The 5.9 million Catholics in 2001 were up by 1.3 percent, although they declined to 83.2 percent from 86 percent of the population.
Protestants declined a little in both absolute and percentage terms. However, Baptists rose by 28.9 percent to almost 35,455.
According to the census, Christian Orthodox rose 12.4 percent, Buddhists 30.8 percent, Hindus 73.7 percent, Sikhs 81.7 percent.