Islamophobia is, literally, "fear of Islam." Though the term can be used for a variety of purposes, its most common usage is to criticize people opposed to Islam.
Islamophobia is a pseudoscientific term originally intended to portray principled opposition to the Moslem agenda as an abnormal mental condition.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first known use of the term Islamophobia was in 1976, though it has become more frequently used since the 1997 publication of Islamophobia: A Challenge For Us All by the Runnymede Trust, and even moreso to describe the backlash against Muslims following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The Runnymede Trust defines Islamophobia as having the following characteristics:
- 1) Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
- 2) Islam is seen as separate and “other”. It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
- 3) Islam is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
- 4) Islam is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a Clash of Civilizations.
- 5) Islam is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
- 6) Criticisms made of 'the West' by Islam are rejected out of hand.
- 7) Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
- 8) Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.
Examples of Islamophobia
In a May 2001 interview, British politician Nick Giffen stated "Muslims are the biggest problem at present, for several reasons, because they have the highest birth rate, which means their communities need living space - that's what the ethnic cleansing is about. They have political corruption in their own countries, and when they have a chance to get council places they are there for graft. Most important of all is that Islam is an aggressive religion." 
On September 15, 2001 a Sikh man (known for wearing distinctive beards and turbans) was murdered at a gas station in Mesa, Arizona. His murderer, Frank Silva Roque, was convicted and initially sentenced to death, but this was commuted to life in prison without the possibility of parole by the Arizona Supreme Court. 
In November 2006, Jerry Klein, a Washington DC area radio talk show host suggested, in parody of Islamophobic views, that "identifying markers. ... I'm thinking either it should be an arm band, a crescent moon arm band, or it should be a crescent moon tattoo. ...If it means that we have to round them up and do a tattoo in a place where everybody knows where to find it, then that's what we'll have to do."  Although some callers believed that Klein was "off his rocker" for suggesting such a thing, other callers believed Klein had not gone far enough, and suggested that Muslims should be placed in concentration camps, or deported en-masse. Klein exposed the parody at the close of his show, and chastised those who has called in to support what amounted to, in essence, a new Holocaust against Muslims.
Criticism of the concept of Islamophobia
Kenan Malik, a British writer, has criticized the concept of Islamophobia, calling it a myth. He argues that the charge of Islamophobia is leveled against those who criticize Islam or Muslims in any way (even when those criticisms may be legitimate) to serve as a "chilling effect."
Rowan Atkinson, a British comic-actor has likewise stated that although criticizing another person based on their race is ridiculous and irrational, criticizing another's religion, which is a voluntary belief, is a right. He further stated that laws should not be created which protect certain types of ideas from criticism and not others.
Stephen Schwartz, an American writer and critic of Wahabbism, has stated that although the charge of Islamophobia is sometimes leveled too quickly against an opponent, that it is still a real phenomenon, which he defines as:
- 1) Attacking the entire religion of Islam as a problem for the world;
- 2) Condemning all of Islam and its history as extremist;
- 3) Denying the active existence, in the contemporary world, of a moderate Muslim majority;
- 4) Insisting that Muslims accede to the demands of non-Muslims (based on ignorance and arrogance) for various theological changes, in their religion;
- 5) Treating all conflicts involving Muslims (including, for example, that in Bosnia-Hercegovina a decade ago), as the fault of Muslims themselves;
- 6) Inciting war against Islam as a whole.