What Are the Major Causes of Islamophobia in the West?

What are the major causes of Islamophobia in the West? What can be done about this? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Dalia Mogahed, Director of Research, Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU), on Quora.

Most people think that the cause of Islamophobia in the West is terrorism carried out by Muslims. I thought this as well, until I looked at the evidence. I found that anti-Muslim sentiment actually went down in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil, and did not change after the Boston bombing, or even after San Bernardino or Orlando. Instead, Islamophobia spiked in the run up to the Iraq war and during the 2008 and 2012 election season, especially among Republicans. See: Islamophobia is Made Up.

So Islamophobia is not the organic result of bad Muslims doing bad things. It is also a tool of public manipulation to manufacture consent for disastrous wars and for votes. The current election is just the next and most extreme iteration of this phenomena.

First, there is the Islamophobia Industry. According to a recent report "Confronting Fear: Islamophobia and Its Impact in the U.S. 2013-2015",33 Islamophobic groups had access to at least $205 million in total revenue between 2008-2013."

Since the majority of Americans say they don't know a Muslim, their information comes primarily from media, and the media is hilariously biased. According to a recent study carried out by MediaTenor, 90% of news media about Muslims and Islam was negative. Another study, conducted by 416Labs found that over the past 25 years, the New York Times portrayed Islam and Muslims more negatively than they did cancer and cocaine.

So Islamophobia is manufactured and a tool of manipulation, endangering not only Muslims, but the health of our democracy.

So what can be done: People of conscience have to first recognize it when they see it by educating themselves. Then they need to call it out loud and clear. Call it out in the media, in social settings and in government policy. People also need to build coalitions across color and creed for a stronger, more pluralistic America.

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