Islamophobia 101


Where was the word first used?

The earliest history of the word “Islamophobia” leads to it being used in the early 20th century, emerging as a neologism of the word Islam, and phobia which is an irrational fear or aversion to something. It officially became a term in 1997.

Definition of Islamophobia

The oxford dictionary defines Islamophobia as the following:

Dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

Several scholars consider Islamophobia to be a form of xenophobia or racism.  There are a few alternative ways to define the term as well, below are several of them:

  • An unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore, fear or dislike of all or most Muslims.
  • A social anxiety about Islam and Muslims.
  • Anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of anti-Asian, anti-Turkic and anti-Arab racism.
  • Racial bigotry

One thing is for certain however, Islamophobia creates a distorted understanding of Islam and Muslims as a result of being a fuel for closed-minded hatred, fear and prejudice. Subsequently it results in discrimination, marginalization and oppression. All the while it transforms the diversity in language, culture, ethnicity and race into a set of cold hard stereotypes.


Islam and Terrorism: Is there a relationship?

Whether you turn on the news, or read something online, you’re bound to see the two words thrown in conjunction with each other often. When you take into consideration current events it’s very easy to make a quick judgement. However studies done by renowned scientists and surveys like the Gallup polls will actually point towards exactly the opposite.

Dr. Robert Pape is an American political scientist from the University of Chicago known for his work on international security affairs, and especially on the rationale of suicide terrorism. One of his most profound studies examined 315 cases of terrorism from 1980 – 2005. Below was his conclusion:

“The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world’s religions. … Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is aspecific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland”


You may have heard of the world renown Gallup polls before. They are known for their public opinion polls conducted worldwide. They provide research and strategic consulting to large organizations in many countries. They conducted a massive poll which spanned across 35 countries, and served 50,000 Muslims.  Here’s what they gathered from the poll:





 93% of Muslims rejected the actions on 9/11

The 7% who did not reject 9/11 were contacted and were polled; their reasons not to reject 9/11 were strictly political




Muslim leaders and academics have even taken to help educate the masses. In 2012 Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul- Qadri published a 475-page Fatwa(Islamic law given by a recognized authority) denouncing terrorism and suicide bombing.


Below are different studies that were conducted within North America that show how the increase of Islamophobia is prevalent.

  • Hate crimes against Muslim-Canadians more than doubled in 3 years: In 2014, police forces across the country recorded 99 religiously motivated hate crimes against Muslims — up from 45 in 2012. 
  • The number of police-reported hate crimes targeting Muslims in Canada more than tripled over 4 yrs between 2012 and 2015
  • In just one year, between 2014 and 2015, that number increased by 60% per cent:from 99 in 2014 to 159 the following year
  • Researchers at California State University analyzing data across 20 states reported 196 incidents of hate crimes against Muslims in the US in 2015, a 78 percent increase over the prior year, while hate crimes against almost all other groups declined or increased much less. 
  • The number of Islamophobic attacks in Manchester went up five-fold in the week after the concert bombing, with 139 incidents reported to Tell Mama, the group recording Islamophobic crimes, compared to 25 incidents the previous week.24


Effects of Islamophobia

As a result of the increase in Islamophobic activities, a study concluded that the view of Islamophobic society is correlated with psychological problems. These problems include depression and nervousness, despite the fact of the individual having had any personal experiences with religion discrimination. As the authors of the study suggest, anti-discrimination laws may therefore be insufficient to fully protect Muslim minorities from an environment which is hostile towards their religious group.

Islamophobia can manifest in multiple ways:

  1. Hate crimes;
  2. Increased police scrutiny and security profiling;
  3. Discrimination in employment; and
  4. Demonizing and dehumanization

Political terrorism, globalization and social media have led to negative attitudes, violence, harassment, discrimination and stereotyping of Muslims. There has been an increase in:

  1. Verbal attacks
  2. Physical attacks
  3. Attacks on property and institutions
  4. Hate propaganda and demonstrations
  5. Personal threats
  6. Intimidation and hate speech

There are many external manifestations that may indicate an individual is experiencing distress from a traumatic event. While not exhaustive, some of the most common indicators of trauma are:

  • alienation • isolation • shame • self-hate • externalized racism • internalized racism • fear and anger towards authority figures • low self-esteem • destructive behaviours (substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, criminality, suicide ideation) • aggressive behaviours

Where does it come from?

Islamophobia didn’t just pop out of thin-air. Contemporary Islamophobia can be pin-pointed to several sources. Some of them include:

  •  Media representation
  •  Political rhetoric
  •  Violent extremists
  •  Foreign policy

Islamophobia Influenced by the Media

Author’s Tansin Benn and Haifaa Jawad write that hostility towards Islam and Muslims are “closely linked to media portrayals of Islam as barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist”. Don’t get me wrong though Indiana Jones Raiders of The Lost Ark was a great film!







  • Even though not many people in the world take a word Donald Trump says to heart, Associate Professor Deepa Kumar writes that “Islamophobia is about politics rather than religion per se” and that modern-day demonization of Arabs and Muslims.
  • Egorova and Tudor cite European researchers in suggesting that expressions used in the media such as “Islamic terrorism”, “Islamic bombs” and “violent Islam” have resulted in a negative perception of Islam.
  • Evidence also suggests that some of the media promotion Islamophobia might be a big business. A 2016 report by CAIR and University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender said that groups promoting Islamophobia in the US had access to 206 million USD between 2008 and 2013.


How to address Islamophobia

Islamophobia is being addressed in a variety of ways. The first place to start would be recognizing it. Governmental organizations around the world have recognized how things like xenophobia and anti-Semitism are correlated to Islamophobia. All three having shown an increase in recent years.

 Reports by governmental organizations

  •  Professor in History of Religion, Anne Sophie Roald, states that Islamophobia was recognized as a form of intolerance alongside xenophobia and antisemitism at the “Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance”, held in January 2001. 
  • Declaration adopted at UN on September 23, 2010, “genocide, ethnic cleansing, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia and xenophobia, and to combat all forms of racial discrimination and intolerance related to it” 


Strategies to Counter Islamophobia 

Changing people’s attitudes and institutional practices is not easy. Like working against other forms of prejudice and racism, countering Islamophobia as a system of a religious and racial animosity requires committed action and resources.


What YOU can do:

  • Find local and national groups, whose work you support and join them.
  • Work on practical community projects with people of various backgrounds to build interpersonal relationships and develop solutions to shared problems.
  • Organize coalitions of community leaders representing different cultural/ethnic/religious groups and community sectors (such as schools, businesses, etc.) to examine existing policies and determine what needs to change.
  • Keep your cool. When confronted by hate, be assertive and polite. Rudeness hurts the cause and can be used against you.
  • Turn a negative into a positive. For example, if a place of worship is vandalized, bring communities together to repair and clean it up in a demonstration of solidarity.



Take the next step, help Think for Actions, by filling out their national survey: The Canadian Community Engagement Study at to help assess the communication gap between Muslim Canadians and their fellow Canadians.


All references for this article and brochure can be found here:

By Dr Mukarram Zaidi, Bahir Faqiri, and Kohawar Khan