Islamophobia is one of the worst problems that beset Muslims in the West. This phenomenon, which has many negative impacts on communal integrity, must be countered and rejected, addressing both its manifestations and its root causes. To that end, we must first identify the precise meaning of the concept of Islamophobia and its underlying causes.
"Phobia, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is an exaggerated, usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation. It may be hard for the afflicted to sufficiently determine or communicate the source of this fear, but it exists. Researchers and policy groups define Islamophobia as “An exaggerated fear, hatred, and hostility toward Islam and Muslims that is perpetuated by negative stereotypes resulting in bias, discrimination, and the marginalization and exclusion of Muslims from social, political, and civic life.”
It is obvious that the West has tried since ancient times to create a specific stereotype of the Arab Muslims, and for years, the Western media, with the terrible influence it possesses on the souls and minds, has been able to carve out a largely negative image of Islam. It presented Islam as the religion that represents extremism and terrorism, and this in turn contributed to creating hotbeds of hostility and fear of Islam or "Islamophobia."
The September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, which propelled Muslims to an unenviable position, led to widespread discrimination, harassment, and dehumanization, which have been normalized through mass media and government policies in the United States. On the other hand, the emergence of extremist groups has compounded the matters as that has reinforced Western fears of and antipathy towards Islam and Muslims, ignoring the fact that we are really born to love not to hate.
In fact, there is a blatant ignorance of the reality of Islam, since in the West they draw their information about Islam from sources that in many cases may lack objectivity, integrity or adequate awareness of the essence of Islam. As a result, they tend to look upon Muslims as backward, gender-oppressive and violent communities. The question that arises, then, is How to confront the phenomenon of Islamophobia?
Perhaps one of the best ways to tackle the phenomenon of Islamophobia is to increase the efforts to show the true image of Islam by reviving the civilized aspects of that religion, highlighting its bright dimensions and exposing them to the world. In addition, there is actually an urgent need to show the truth of Islam, which is based primarily on moderation not on extremism and terrorism as is claimed. At the same time, there is a need for dialogue and communication, through the media and the modern communication techniques, in dealing with that phenomenon, and correcting misconceptions by strengthening and activating the ways of civilized dialogue with the West. Moreover, Muslims in the West must integrate into the societies in which they live and bear in mind that just as they have duties, they have rights as well. So they must demand their rights and not condone the racial reactions or hate crimes to which they are exposed. Rather, they must complain through the available legal methods and human rights associations.
In this regard, the most recent Islamophobia study, in Australia, finds non-Muslims living in Muslim areas were less Islamophobic than the general populations of Sydney and Melbourne, scoring 2.31 compared to 2.80. This adds evidence to the “contact theory”, which states that usually, but not always, contact between people of different backgrounds reduces inter-group prejudice. Further, this study suggests an important way to combat Islamophobia is to have more rather than fewer Muslims among the non-Muslims and to learn more about their religion and way of life. So living side-by-side and interacting with Muslims could be an antidote to Islamophobia.