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For religious persecution of Muslims, see Persecution of Muslims. For the scholarly criticism of Islam, see Criticism of Islam. The causes and characteristics of Islamophobia are still debated. There are a number of other possible terms which are also used in order to refer to negative feelings and attitudes towards Islam and Muslims, such as anti-Muslimism, intolerance against Muslims, anti-Muslim prejudice, anti-Muslim bigotry, hatred of Muslims, anti-Islamism, Muslimophobia, demonisation of Islam, or demonisation of Muslims. When discrimination towards Muslims has placed an emphasis on their religious affiliation and adherence, it has been termed Muslimphobia, the alternative form of Muslimophobia, Islamophobism, antimuslimness and antimuslimism. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word means “Intense dislike or fear of Islam, esp.
Muslims” and is attested in English as early as 1923. In 1996, the Runnymede Trust established the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, chaired by Gordon Conway, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex. In 2008, a workshop on ‘Thinking Thru Islamophobia’ was held at the University of Leeds, organized by the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies, the participants included S. Sayyid, Abdoolkarim Vakil, Liz Fekete, and Gabrielle Maranci among others. The symposium proposed a definition of Islamophobia which rejected the idea of Islamophobia as being the product of closed and open views of Islam, and focused on Islamophobia as performative which problematized Muslim agency and identity. The exact definition of Islamophobia continues to be discussed with academics such as Chris Allen saying that it lacks a clear definition. As opposed to being a psychological or individualistic phobia, according to professors of religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg, “Islamophobia” connotes a social anxiety about Islam and Muslims.
Several scholars consider Islamophobia to be a form of xenophobia or racism. A 2007 article in Journal of Sociology defines Islamophobia as anti-Muslim racism and a continuation of anti-Asian, anti-Turkic and anti-Arab racism. Others have questioned the supposed relationship between Islamophobia and racism. Jocelyne Cesari writes that “academics are still debating the legitimacy of the term and questioning how it differs from other terms such as racism, anti-Islamism, anti-Muslimness, and anti-Semitism.