In the opinion of some scholars, journalists, and activists, the nature of European and North American reaction to Islam is an example of prejudice, falling suitably under the umbrella of what they call Islamophobia. In our estimation, however, the use of this term, and its cognates Islamophobic and Islamophobe, is not only misapplied, as in the case of the Dutch dissidents Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but altogether inappropriate and deserving of repudiation.
It is worth acknowledging that some degree of hostility toward Muslims does exist in Western countries. This was perhaps clearest in the Balkan Wars of the 1990s, where the West seemed content to allow the mass killing of Muslims as ethnoreligious factions carved apart Bosnia and Herzegovina. The eventual intervention in 1995, aimed at protecting Muslim civilians from aggression by Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs, earned the West little respect in the Muslim world. The appalling abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib detention facility during the Second Gulf War, widely condemned as acts of torture, could also be cited as an example of anti-Muslim hostility. But to accuse all opponents of Islam of harboring a deep-seated hatred, rooted in irrational fear, is a serious mistake, exemplified by the sweeping and liberal usage of Islamophobia. In fact, the only sentiment in this debate that could actually be described as phobic is the unconditional contempt among many Muslims for people who disagree with them. But one doubts that a formulation like “Infidelophobia” will gain traction anytime soon.