Islamophobia: A Definition

I’ve been meaning to address Islamophobia as a concept for some time now. Islamophobia is prejudice towards regular Muslims based on hatred or fear of their religion, Islam. Islamophobia is not criticism of Islam the religion, nor is it a stated hatred of Muslim terrorists, Islamists or any other group associated with Islam. It is important to realise that Islamophobic incidents refer to incidents where everyday Muslims have been targeted on the basis of their faith.

Islamophobia is a type of racism. Yes, Islam may not be a ‘race’ but it is a set of ideals and a religion on its own. ‘Black’ is not a race, simply a colour and yet when black people from various races and countries are discriminated against, this is defined as racism. The perpetrators of Islamophobic incidents are not just hating Muslims based on their faith but based on what they look like. Sikh men are often targets of Islamophobia and harassed for appearing with dark skin, beards and turbans. If that is not racism, I’m not sure what it is.

Author Reza Aslan, believes the term to be perfect. “It’s the proper word… As with any kind of bigotry, anti-Muslim sentiment is not based on a rational response but an emotional one. Bigotry is a result of fear. Speaking about it as a phobia makes sense.”

Scholar Nathan Lean isn’t a fan of the term but still understands its importance. “Do some people use the word ‘Islamophobia’ irresponsibly? Sure,” he said. “Does that mean that the word is bad on the whole or that we should ditch it? Absolutely not. Doing so denies the existence of a real threat facing Muslim communities by handicapping the way we talk, write, and think about it. It also prevents [us] from finding a more equitable way forward.”

Normalising Islamophobia is toxic and by misusing and refuting the term, that is what happens. Most arguments against Islamophobia state its nonexistence as a reason to ignore all Islamophobic incidents that occur. However, I would direct them all to this tweet:

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