Islamophobia often expresses itself as a form of anti-Arab racism, though not all Arabs are Muslim and the majority of Muslims are not in fact Arab.
The term itself is of recent coinage, and reflects the influence of such 1990s movements as multi-culturalism and identity politics. It most often appears in discourse on the condition of immigrant Muslims living as minorities in the West. However, its origin dates back to the Crusades. It has remained present in Europe for many centuries.
Some hold that in France, one of the factors contributing to Islamophobia was France's occupation of Algeria, a Muslim nation. It is alleged that France carried out systematic human rights violations such as torture against Muslims.
A factor driving Islamophobia is the rise of anti-Western Islamist movements, which have either come to power outright in some countries (Iran, Sudan, post-Soviet-era Afghanistan), or else exerted a strong influence on government policy in others (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan).
It is sometimes claimed that the increasing fraction of North Americans and Europeans who identify themselves as Muslims is a factor driving Islamophobia. However, Islamophobia (or any other racist fear) is often present among populations with extremely few Muslims (or other perceived minority).
Perhaps the most important factor shaping the present wave of Islamophobia (as of 2003), though, is the extremely large and disproportionate media coverage given to Islamist-inspired terrorism, for example, to the September 11 Terrorist Attacks, while relatively little media coverage is given to equivalent acts of terrorism by other groups or nation-states.
Though such characteristics do in fact apply to most Islamist movements, many people mistakenly believe that most Muslims are Islamist, when in fact the Islamist movement is only a minority position. How big of a minority, though, is a matter of intense controversy. The American scholar Daniel Pipes, for example, has been branded an Islamophobe and bigot by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for suggesting that as many as 10% of Muslims have Islamist sympathies.
Recently there have been several efforts by non-Muslims to combat Islamophobia. In the wake of September 11, for example, a few non-Muslim women practiced hijab in a show of solidarity with their Muslim counterparts, who it was feared would be particularly vulnerable for reprisal given their distinctive dress. Non-Muslims also helped form community watches to protect mosques from attack.
In Israel, there are some organizations working to end anti-Muslim bias among Jews, as well as to end hatred of Jews among Arabs. See the entry on projects working for peace among Israelis and Arabs.
Examples of Islamophobia
- Ann Coulter: "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity."
- Jerry Vines: "Christianity was founded by the virgin-born Jesus Christ. Islam was founded by Mohammed, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives, and his last one was a 9-year-old girl."
- a news wire photo from the time of the September 11 attacks showed the words "kill arabs" written in the dust of one of the collapsed World Trade Center towers