According to the Cambridge Online Dictionaries, a phobia is ‘an extreme fear of a particular thing or situation, esp. one that does not have a reasonable explanation’; thus in the case of Islamophobia, we are talking about an irrational fear of Islam and the Muslim community based on negative media saturation and naturalized stereotypes that, as with all stereotypes, do not portray the truth. It is caused by a lack of knowledge and a buy-in to the poor stereotypes that flood our media. This ‘phobia’ results in prejudice, discrimination, exclusion (othering) and violence against the Muslim community.
Here at Religions for Peace USA and through our work with Our Muslim Neighbor Initiative, we believe that Islamophobia and anti-Muslim sentiment arises from five main factors:
1) Ignorance regarding both Islam as a religion and Muslims as Americans
2) Racial bias
3) Religious prejudice
4) Lack of regular relationships with Muslims
5) Fear of global “Islamic” extremists.
Our work with Our Muslim Neighbor seeks to destabilize these fears, educate the public on Islam and Muslims, and work to cross racial and religious boundaries that can be used to uphold stereotypes and misinformation.
Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary. (2015). English Definition of ‘Phobia’. Cambridge Dictionaries. Cambridge University Press.
Available at: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/american-english/phobia [Accessed: 2015.02.24]