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Part 1: Islamophobia

Egyptian women playing volley at Olympics
Doaa El-Ghobashy and Nada Meawad of the Egyptian volleyball Olympic team.

What is Islamophobia?

Islamophobia is prejudice towards or discrimination against Muslims due to their religion, or perceived religious, national, or ethnic identity associated with Islam. Like anti-Semitism, racism, and homophobia, Islamophobia describes mentalities and actions that demean an entire class of people. Jews, African-Canadian, Indigenous, and other populations throughout history have faced prejudice and discrimination. Islamophobia is simply another reincarnation of this unfortunate trend of bigotry.

How does Islamophobia looks like?

Islamophobia is a set of attitudes that incorporate the following beliefs:

  • Islam is monolithic and cannot adapt to new realities
  • Islam does not share common values with other major faiths
  • Islam as a religion is inferior to the West
  • It is archaic, barbaric, and irrational
  • Islam is a religion of violence and supports terrorism.
  • Islam is a violent political ideology

Islamophobia and power

Islamophobia is a contrived fear or prejudice fomented by the existing Eurocentric and Orientalist global power structure. It is directed at a perceived or real Muslim threat through the maintenance and extension of existing disparities in economic, political, social and cultural relations, while rationalizing the necessity to deploy violence as a tool to achieve "civilizational rehab" of the target communities (Muslim or otherwise). continued...

Islamophobia reintroduces and reaffirms a global racial structure through which resource distribution disparities are maintained and extended.

Additionally, it’s important to note that though Islamophobia isn’t simply about “fear of Islam,” this fear of Muslims’ religion plays an important role in engendering prejudice and fueling discrimination. As the earliest uses of the term “Islamophobia” suggest, views about Muslims’ religion inform the public’s attitudes and actions toward Muslims.

The art of paper making came to Europe from the Muslim world in the 13th century. It was learned by the Arabs from the Chinese in the 8th century.

What is anti-Islamophobia?

Anti-Islamophobia are strategies, theories, actions, and practices that challenge and counter Islamophobia, inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination based on religion, religious or ethical beliefs, and/or perceived religious, national, or ethnic identity.

Mosque vandalized
A mosque in east-central Alberta was vandalized twice in 2015.

Is criticism of Islam or Muslims Islamophobia?

Criticism of Islam should not be automatically conflated with bigotry against Muslims. Islamophobia is not the rational, respectful interrogation and/or criticism of Islam based on factual evidence, just as criticism of the tenets of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions does not necessarily indicate bigotry or prejudice. Islamophobia is the irrational fear of, discrimination against, and antagonism toward Muslims simply for being Muslims.

Ibn Sina’s Canon of Medicine was taught at European universities up to the 17th century.

What are microagressions

Graphic of two people showing cardboards with mental health sentences.
The term “microaggression” was used by Columbia professor Derald Sue to refer to “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioural, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of colour.”

Types of microaggressions

Endorsing religious stereotypes

Photo of woman wearing a colourful hijab
Statements or behaviors that communicate false, presumptuous, or incorrect perceptions of certain religious groups (e.g., stereotyping that a Muslim person is a terrorist or that a Jewish person is cheap).


Instances where people view other religions as trendy or foreign (e.g., an individual who dresses in a certain religion’s garb or garments for fashion or pleasure).

Portrait of a Belly Dancer
Belly Dancer. Leon-Francois Comerre (1850-1916).
Exotification is a powerful way to simplistically interpret racialized groups and conveniently slot them into stereotypes.

Pathology of different religious groups

Statements and behaviours in which individuals equate certain religious practices or traditions as being abnormal, sinful, or deviant (e.g., telling someone that they are in the “wrong” religion).

Assumption of one's own religious identity as the norm

Comments or behaviours that convey people’s presumption that their religion is the standard and behaves accordingly (e.g., greeting someone “Merry Christmas” or saying “God bless you” after someone sneezes conveys one’s perception that everyone is Christian or believes in God).

Assumption of religious homogeneity

Statements in which individuals assume that every believer of a religion practices the same customs or has the same beliefs as the entire group (e.g., assuming that all Muslim people wear head coverings).

Denial of religious prejudice

Incidents in which individuals claim that they are not religiously biased, even if their words or behaviors may indicate otherwise.

Many names of textiles used commonly in English are derived from Arabic: cotton, muslin (from Mosul), damask (from Damascus), tabby (from Attabiyyah, a section of Baghdad), gauze, chiffon, satin, and mohair..

Subtle and Overt Forms of Islamophobia: Microagressions toward Muslim Americans.
Kevin L. Nadal

Learn more about related concepts on Part 2