The Insidiousness of Islamophobia

Nadia Rahman
3 min readMar 15, 2023


Biases and stereotypes about Muslims are so deeply rooted in people’s minds that Islamophobia does not register for many. Let’s talk about why.

Today is the second annual International Day to Combat Islamophobia. March 15 is also the fourth anniversary of the mass shooting at the New Zealand mosque in which 51 people were murdered and 40 people were injured by a white supremacist — a domestic terrorist. Despite the global rise and threat that white supremacist terrorism presents to us all, many still associate terrorism with Muslims.

Bias in media, entertainment and politics all play a role in creating this association — every component of society delivers the message that Muslims are barbaric, “the other,” and this directly translates into Islamophobia that suffocates us in our day-to-day lives. Research has conclusively found that Muslims are negatively portrayed in American media. Additionally, a recent Annenberg study found that a majority of Muslim characters in U.S. films were either perpetrators of violence or the victims of it, in particular Arab Muslims. Finally, political rhetoric and policy have been weaponized against America’s Muslims to undermine our civil liberties: unwarranted surveillance, racial profiling, the Muslim Ban, and the threat of *another* Muslim registry.

Biased and problematic narratives have consequences: 53% of Americans have unfavorable views of Islam. American Muslims are 2x more likely than other groups to have attempted suicide. And hate crimes against Muslims are on the rise — civil rights complaints increased by 9% since 2020.

And then there are the impacts of this on children. 55% of Muslim students in California feel unsafe, unwelcome or uncomfortable in school, and 47.1% reported being bullied for being Muslim.

A lack of understanding of Islamic practices and customs on the part of teachers results in negative experiences for Muslim students, such as the New Jersey case in which a teacher tried to remove a student’s hijab and the Florida case when a teacher intentionally interrupted a group of students praying in school.

The combination of moving through life being actively discriminated against in addition to consuming media narratives that a core part of who you are is problematic is extremely destabilizing and demoralizing for children in particular. Although the impact to Muslim children is under-researched, a 2017 study found that adolescents experiencing acculturative stress were more likely to be withdrawn, sad and depressed. The resulting shame and trauma from bullying and discrimination directly impacts student achievement and outcomes in school. Students experiencing bullying face the greatest risk of low achievement in school.

The reality is that despite being stereotyped as Arab, Muslims represent the most racially and ethnically diverse religious group in the world. Today, Islam is practiced by nearly one quarter (~24%) of the world’s population, and is set to become the world’s largest religion by 2075.

In America, the Muslim population is estimated to be 3.5 million people although this figure is likely an undercount, and it is a rapidly growing segment of the population — projected to become the second largest religion in the country by 2040.

Although the morality of basic human dignity should be enough, the current and future statistics make it clear that feigning ignorance on the scourge of Islamophobia is not a viable option for anyone.

Challenge your own biases and do not look the other way on Islamophobia.

Banner: International Day to Combat Islamophobia



Nadia Rahman

Communicator, Organizer & Activist. Issues: intersectional feminism, SWANA + Muslim identity, social + racial justice. Very political.