Islamic Studies Islamophobia
by
Todd Green
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2021
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195390155-0285

Introduction

Islamophobia refers to the fear of and hostility toward Muslims and Islam that is driven by racism and that leads to exclusionary, discriminatory, and violent actions targeting Muslims and those perceived as Muslim. Although the word “Islamophobia” entered widespread public and political discourse only in the late 1990s, hostility toward Islam and Muslims in the West dates back to the Middle Ages. With the 9/11 attacks, “Islamophobia” became the primary designation for the prejudice experienced by Muslim minority populations in Western nations. The post-9/11 era witnessed the significant rise and expansion of the academic study of Islamophobia. Islamophobia studies is often conflated with Islamic studies, even though the former is focused not so much on the analysis of Islamic texts, traditions, histories, or rituals as it is on the religious, social, cultural, historical, and political factors that give rise to anti-Muslim racism and discrimination. This entry focuses primarily on academic studies of Islamophobia in North American and European contexts, though the last section bears witness to the growing attention scholars are paying to the global dimensions of Islamophobia.

General Overviews

Elahi and Khan 2017 explores the origins and main contours of modern Islamophobia in Britain, expanding on the original Runnymede Report from 1997 that introduced the term “Islamophobia” into widespread public and political discourse. Allen 2010, Bazian 2019, and Said 1978 address theories, concepts, and/or methodologies undergirding the academic study of Islamophobia. Cesari 2011, The Bridge Initiative, Green 2019, and Zempi and Awan 2019 offer broad introductions to and comparisons of Islamophobia in Europe and the United States. Beydoun 2018 introduces the legal and political dimensions of Islamophobia in America, while Bayrakli and Hafez 2015– and Taras 2012 focus on Islamophobia in diverse European contexts.

  • Allen, Chris. Islamophobia. London: Routledge, 2010.

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    A theoretical introduction to the concept of Islamophobia, accompanied by a critique of the essentialized definition employed by the Runnymede Trust’s original 1997 report on Islamophobia.

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  • Bayrakli, Enes, and Farid Hafez, eds. European Islamophobia Report. 2015–.

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    An annual report published by the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) that tracks the state of anti-Muslim sentiment and discrimination in over thirty European countries.

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  • Bazian, Hatem. “Islamophobia: An Introduction to the Academic Field, Methods, and Approaches.” In Islamophobia and Psychiatry. Edited by H. Steven Moffic, John Peteet, Ahmed Zakaria, and Rania Awaad, 19–31. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2019.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-00512-2_2Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Introduces the broader themes and methodologies found in the emerging academic field of Islamophobia studies.

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  • Beydoun, Khaled A. American Islamophobia: Understanding the Roots and Rise of Fear. Oakland: University of California Press, 2018.

    DOI: 10.1525/9780520970007Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    While the book struggles to acknowledge and engage with many of the seminal studies on the structural and systemic manifestations of Islamophobia, it nonetheless offers important perspectives on and analyses of the legal and political forces driving Islamophobia in the United States.

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  • The Bridge Initiative.

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    An online research project based at Georgetown University that offers educational resources, original research, and scholarly commentary on anti-Muslim bias and discrimination. Includes concise and accessible fact sheets on prominent anti-Muslim individuals and organizations in Europe and North America.

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  • Cesari, Jocelyn. “Islamophobia in the West: A Comparison between Europe and the United States.” In Islamophobia: The Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century. Edited by John L. Esposito and Ibrahim Kalin, 21–43. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    A concise essay that broadly compares the ways that Islamophobia manifests itself in Europe versus the United States, with a particular emphasis on the political, cultural, and religious challenges facing European Muslims.

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  • Elahi, Farah, and Omar Khan, eds. Islamophobia: Still a Challenge for Us All. London: Runnymede, 2017.

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    Updated study of Islamophobia in Britain by the Runnymede Trust, covering a wide range of topics including the impact of Islamophobia on British Muslims in relation to employment, hate crimes, counterterrorism, and health. The original 1997 study signaled the introduction of the term “Islamophobia” into the larger public and political discourse in Britain and eventually in other Western nations.

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  • Green, Todd H. The Fear of Islam: An Introduction to Islamophobia in the West. 2d ed. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2019.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvcb5c4rSave Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Comprehensive survey of the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of Islamophobia in Europe and the United States. Offers introductions to many of the most common themes addressed in the study of Islamophobia. Helpful starting point for scholars and students new to the subject.

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  • Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1978.

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    Groundbreaking study that deconstructs Western assumptions and stereotypes about the “Orient” (the Middle East and North Africa). Maintains that Western discourse about Muslims and Arabs in the 19th and 20th centuries reflects colonial interests and power. Said’s book provides the theoretical and analytical framework for a large number of academic studies of Islamophobia.

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  • Taras, Raymond. Xenophobia and Islamophobia in Europe. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012.

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    A broad survey of anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant attitudes in Western Europe, with in-depth case studies of France and Germany.

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  • Zempi, Irene, and Imran Awan, eds. The Routledge International Handbook of Islamophobia. London: Routledge, 2019.

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    A multidisciplinary collection of essays introducing various facets of Islamophobia. Focuses mostly on Europe and North America.

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Historical Foundations

Diouf 2013, GhaneaBassiri 2013, and Kidd 2009 situate anti-Muslim animus in the United States as part of a longer historical trajectory of hostility and/or racism toward Muslims. Heng 2018 and Tolan 2002 analyze the medieval origins of European animosities toward Muslims. Daniel 2009 and Tolan, et al. 2013 begin with medieval Europe as well but cover tensions between Europe and Muslims into the period of colonialism and beyond. Although Said 1978 is not a classical historical study in terms of methodology, its focus is also on the colonial contexts and projects that informed European discourse about Islam and Muslims. Arjana 2015 explores monstrous depictions of Muslim men from the Middle Ages to the present, with attention to both Europe and the United States.

Islamophobia and Racism

An increasing number of scholars recognize at least implicitly that racism is an animating force behind Islamophobia. These studies highlight the intersections of racism and Islamophobia in the 20th and 21st centuries. Chan-Malik 2018, Curtis 2013, Johnson 2015, and Khabeer 2016 focus on the intersections of anti-Black and anti-Muslim racism in modern American history. Maghbouleh 2017 and Rana 2011 address the racialization of Muslims with immigrant backgrounds in the United States. Love 2017 critiques the failures of advocacy organizations in the United States to understand and respond to Islamophobia as racism. The Islamophobia Is Racism project lists a variety of teaching and educational resources addressing anti-Muslim racism in the United States. Heng 2018 and Meer and Modood 2019 study the racialization of Muslims in the medieval and contemporary European contexts respectively.

Gendered Islamophobia

Earlier studies of Islamophobia often neglected gender as a category of analysis, an oversight that scholars are increasingly addressing on a number of fronts. Chan-Malik 2018 and Taylor 2017 explore how Black Muslim women and women of color have responded to racism and patriarchy in modern American history. The intersections of gendered Islamophobia and Western imperialism, along with attention to political discourses on saving oppressed Muslim women, feature prominently in the scholarship of Abu-Lughod 2013, Hammer 2013, and Scott 2007. The politics of regulating and policing what Muslim women wear, including how Muslim women’s attire factors into questions of national identity, are addressed in Aziz 2017, Ferrari and Pastorelli 2016, and Scott 2007. Allen 2020 and Arjana 2015 focus more specifically on the demonizing and dehumanizing of Muslim men in Western history.

Islamophobia and the War on Terror

Many studies of Islamophobia involve at least implicit recognition of the relationship between Islamophobia and the War on Terror. These studies more deliberately center the ways that Islamophobia fueled and was fueled by the War on Terror. Bail 2015 and Lean 2017 address the manufacturing and mainstreaming of Islamophobia due to fearmongering from extreme anti-Muslim organizations looking to profit politically and financially from the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror. Abbas and Awan 2015 and Kundnani 2014 focus on counterterrorism policies and the ways national security provides cover for racism and Islamophobia in Britain and the United States. Kazi 2019, Kumar 2012, and Sheehi 2011 highlight the intersection of anti-Muslim racism and US imperialism in the War on Terror. The impact of discriminatory governmental policies on Muslim communities in the United States is explored by Bayoumi 2015 and Cainkar 2009.

Islamophobia and the Media

Scholars of Islamophobia recognize that negative attitudes toward Islam and Muslims in the United States and Europe are shaped significantly by the media. Print and broadcast news, television programs, and movies create frames of interpretation through which media consumers understand and interpret Islam and Muslims as prone to violence, fanaticism, and misogyny. Said 1981 explores the political and Orientalist assumptions behind US media representations of Islam. Ahmed and Matthes 2017, the Centre for Media Monitoring, Mertens and de Smaele 2016, and Powell 2011 provide a broad analysis of negative portrayals of Muslims and Islam in the news media in the post-9/11 era. Alsultany 2012 tackles news media as well but expands to television and other media platforms. Haider 2020 and Shaheen 2009 focus on the Hollywood film industry. Gottschalk and Greenberg 2008 and Klausen 2009 analyze political cartoons printed and reproduced in Western media as purveyors and reflections of anti-Muslim hostility.

Global Islamophobia

The academic literature on Islamophobia has focused predominantly on Western contexts with settler colonial and/or imperialistic histories. Less attention has been given to the global dimensions of Islamophobia, including the particular historical, political, and cultural forces driving Islamophobia outside the West, along with the degree to which Islamophobia within Western nations conforms to or deviates from Islamophobia in other contexts. This gap in the literature has started to receive much more attention in recent years. Hafez 2020, Hedges 2021, Iftikhar 2021, and Sayyid and Vakil 2010 address the global dimensions of Islamophobia, including similarities and differences between the forms of Islamophobia that take shape within and beyond Western nations. Çaksu 2020 tackles the increasing targeting of Uyghur Muslims in China. Waikar 2018 explores the exclusion and otherizing of Muslims in contemporary Indian politics. Wade 2019 and Osman 2017 call attention to the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, with the latter also shedding light on the targeting of certain Muslim populations in the Muslim-majority country of Malaysia. Bayrakli and Hafez 2019 focuses mostly on the particular ways anti-Muslim racism emerges in Muslim-majority contexts and countries.

  • Bayrakli, Enes, and Farid Hafez, eds. Islamophobia in Muslim Majority Societies. New York: Routledge, 2019.

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    A collection of essays analyzing anti-Muslim racism within Muslim communities and Muslim-majority countries, primarily from the perspective of nation-state building and postcolonial nationalism. Includes essays on Albania, Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey.

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  • Çaksu, Ali. “Islamophobia, Chinese Style: Total Internment of Uyghur Muslims by the People’s Republic of China.” Islamophobia Studies Journal 5 (2020): 175–198.

    DOI: 10.13169/islastudj.5.2.0175Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Discusses the Chinese government’s efforts to construct an ethnically and religiously homogenous culture through the internment of Uyghur Muslims.

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  • Hafez, Farid. “Unwanted Identities: The ‘Religion Line’ and Global Islamophobia.” Development 63.1 (2020): 9–19.

    DOI: 10.1057/s41301-020-00241-5Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Focuses on why Islamophobia constitutes a significant racist discourse in the post–Cold War global order, with particular attention to China, Egypt, and the United States.

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  • Hedges, Paul. Religious Hatred: Prejudice, Islamophobia, and Antisemitism in Global Context. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2021.

    DOI: 10.5040/9781350162907Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    A comparison of antisemitism and Islamophobia both within and beyond Western contexts. Pays ample attention to how traditions beyond the Abrahamic religions also manifest Islamophobia, including Buddhism and Hinduism.

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  • Iftikhar, Arsalan. Fear of a Muslim Planet: Global Islamophobia in the New World. New York: Skyhorse, 2021.

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    Addresses some of the global implications of the “Great Replacement” theory among white supremacists along with anti-Muslim hatred outside Western contexts, including India, China, and Myanmar.

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  • Osman, Mohamed Nawab Bin Mohamed. “Understanding Islamophobia in Asia: The Cases of Myanmar and Malaysia.” Islamophobia Studies Journal 20 (2017): 17–36.

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    Relies on a case study of Myanmar and Malaysia to argue that Islamophobia in Asian contexts is more rooted in regional political and socioeconomic issues, including domestic religious strife and historical ethnic tensions, than in broader international discourses about Muslims and Islam.

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  • Sayyid, S., and AbdoolKarim Vakil. Thinking through Islamophobia: Global Perspectives. London: Hurst, 2010.

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    A collection of essays that draws on diverse disciplinary perspectives to engage critically with the concept of Islamophobia and its diverse manifestations. Includes essays on Islamophobia in Russia, China, Thailand, and India, along with attention to Western contexts.

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  • Wade, Francis. Myanmar’s Enemy Within: Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim “Other.” 2d ed. London: Zed Books, 2019.

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    Accessible introduction to the political anxieties that have fueled genocidal campaigns by the military against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

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  • Waikar, Prashant. “Reading Islamophobia in Hinduvata: An Analysis of Narenda Modi’s Political Discourse.” Islamophobia Studies Journal 4 (2018): 161–180.

    DOI: 10.13169/islastudj.4.2.0161Save Citation »Export Citation » Share Citation »

    Explores the various ways that Hinduvata narratives of Muslim inferiority feature in the political speeches of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Offers some historical context to Hinduvata otherization and racialization of Muslims in India.

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