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Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims.

In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust -- a leading pro-multiculturalism think-tank -- defined Islamophobia as the "dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, to the fear and dislike of all Muslims," stating that it also refers to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation.

According to the think-tank Islamophobia includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.

The term is often misused in reference to instances of legitimate concern regarding Islam's tenets (particularly where, for instance, the Quran calls for the destruction of the enemies of Islam -- including anyone who rejects Muhammad as the prophet), Islam-related security issues (e.g. the insistence on wearing a burqa or niqab), or large-scale immigration (resulting in demands that the host country changes its cultural views and practices in order to accomodate Islamic mores).

The prevalence of Islamic terrorism -- nearly 17,000 deadly terror attacks since 9/11 -- does not help the matter.

Neither does the insistence of many Muslims to use Sharia (Islamic law) instead of -- or in addition to -- the law of the land.

In speaking out against Islamophobia U.N. Secretary Kofi Anan has said:

Islam is often seen as a monolith, when it is as diverse as any other tradition, with followers running the gamut from modernizers to traditionalists.

Some commentators talk as if the world of Islam was more or less identical with the Arab world -- whereas in fact a majority of Muslims are not native Arabic speakers. The most populous Muslim countries are to be found in non-Arab Asia -- from Indonesia through South-East and South Asia to Central Asia, Iran, and Turkey, which of course is both in Asia and Europe.

There are many predominantly Muslim countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and large minorities of Muslims are to be found on every continent. [1]

However, most of those countries are constantly in the news regarding acts of intolerance, violence and religious persecution of others by Muslims.

Islamism is also a concern. Seen by many Muslims as a distortion of Islam it is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists.


True Islamophobia -- as opposed to legitimate criticism of Islam expressed in legitimate ways -- is wrong. No one should engage in acts of prejudice, discrimination or hatred against Islam and its followers.

At the same time, Muslims and others should not dismiss attempts at legitimate criticism -- expressed in legitimate ways -- as 'Islamophobia.'

Research resources on Islam

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  1. Kofi Anan, "Secretary-General, addressing headquarters seminar on confronting Islamophobia" United Nations press release, December 7, 2004.

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This post was last updated: Sep. 4, 2011