Skip to Main Content
Our Guides

Anti-Oppression: Anti-Islamophobia

We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced. ~Malala Yousafzai



What does Islamophobia look like?

Support Resources for Muslim Folks

Informational Resources for Allies

A note on the scope of this guide:

This guide is intended to provide general information about anti-oppression, diversity, and inclusion as well as information and resources for the social justice issues key to current dialogues within the Chicago School. This guide is by no means an exhaustive list of anti-oppressive initiatives nor does it capture all of the many facets of the larger conversations about the issues listed here. This guide serves as an introduction to these issues and as a starting place for finding information from a variety of sources.



Islamophobia (also called Islamomisia ) is prejudice plus power; anyone with any religious beliefs can have/exhibit religion-based prejudice, but in North America (and throughout much of the western world), people who follow Christianity have the institutional power, therefore Islamophobia is a systematized discrimination or antagonism directed against Muslim people due to their religion, or perceived religious, national, or ethnic identity associated with Islam. Like anti-Semitism, Islamophobia describes mentalities and actions that demean an entire class of people.

Note: Criticism of Islam should not be automatically conflated with bigotry against Muslims. Islamophobia is not the rational, respectful interrogation and/or criticism of Islam based on factual evidence, just as criticism of the tenets of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other religions does not necessarily indicate bigotry or prejudice. Islamophobia is the irrational fear of, discrimination against, and antagonism toward Muslims simply for being Muslims.

Anti-Islamophobia (or Anti-Islamomisia is strategies, theories, actions, and practices that challenge and counter Islamomisia, inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination based on religion, religious or ethical beliefs, and/or perceived religious, national, or ethnic identity.

What does Islamophobia look like?

Islamophobic Microaggressions are  commonplace verbal or behavioral indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights and insults in relation to the beliefs and religious practices of Muslims. They are structurally based and invoke oppressive systems of religious/Christian hierarchy. Islamophobic Microinvalidations, Microinsulsts, Microassaults are specific types of microaggressions.

Note: The prefix "micro" is used because these are invocation of religious hierarchy at the individual level (person to person), whereas the "macro" level refers to aggression committed by structures as a whole (e.g. an organizational policy). "Micro" in no way minimalizes or otherwise evaluates the impact or seriousness of the aggressions.

Six Categories of Common Islamophobic Microaggressions

(from Subtle and Overt Forms of Islamophobia: Microaggressions toward Muslim Americans)

  1. Endorsing Religious Stereotypes: statements or behaviors that communicate false, presumptuous, or incorrect perceptions of certain religious groups (e.g., stereotyping that a Muslim person is a terrorist or that a Jewish person is cheap).

  2. Exoticization: instances where people view other religions as trendy or foreign (e.g., an individual who dresses in a certain religion’s garb or garments for fashion or pleasure).

  3. Pathology of Different Religious Groups: Statements and behaviors in which individuals equate certain religious practices or traditions as being abnormal, sinful, or deviant (e.g., telling someone that they are in the “wrong” religion).

  4. Assumption of One's Own Religious Identity as the Norm: Comments or behaviors that convey people’s presumption that their religion is the standard and behaves accordingly (e.g., greeting someone with “Merry Christmas” conveys one's perception that everyone is Christian or similarly saying “God bless you” after someone sneezes conveys one’s perception that everyone believes in God).

  5. Assumption of Religious Homogeneity: Statements in which individuals assume that every believer of a religion practices the same customs or has the same beliefs as the entire group (e.g., assuming that all Muslim people wear head coverings).

  6. Denial of Religious Prejudice: Incidents in which individuals claim that they are not religiously biased, even if their words or behaviors may indicate otherwise.

This video shows a policeman's very different reactions to two young men who argue first
in English, then later in Arabic.

Muslim Woman Needs Help With Flat Tire | What Would You Do?

A Muslim woman needs help with her car. Will reactions differ if she wears a hijab or
regular street clothes? 

Misconceptions about Islam (ISLAM IS NOT TERRORISM)

This video discusses how ISIS are NOT Muslims and how Islam is misunderstood
for a religion that promotes terrorism and violence due to ISIS.

Brown attackers are terrorists. White attackers are mentally ill.

When an attacker is white, they're labeled as having mental health issues, but if the
attacker is brown or Muslim, then they're instantly suspected of terrorism. What gives?

Support Resources for Muslim Folks

Informational Resources for Allies

Religious/Christian Privilege

In the United States and many other Western nations, Christianity and its various denominations and religious practices hold institutional and cultural power. Christian privilege is the unearned benefits that Christians in the US receive that members of other faiths (or non-religious people) do not. Some examples are below:

  •  You can expect to have time off work to celebrate religious holidays.
  •  Holidays celebrating your faith are so widely supported you can often forget they are limited to your faith (e.g. wish someone a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Easter” without considering their faith).
  •  You can worship freely, without fear of violence or threats.
  •  When swearing an oath, you will place your hand on a religious scripture pertaining to your faith.
  •  Politicians can make decisions citing your faith without being labeled as heretics or extremists.


Religious/Christian Fragility

Religious or Christian fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of religious stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as tears, argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate Christian or dominant religious equilibrium. (adapted from "White Fragility")

Christianity's religious dominance in the U.S. allows most American Christians to live in social environments that insulate them from challenging encounters with beliefs or people who differ from themselves. Within this dominant social environment, Christians come to expect social comfort and a sense of belonging and superiority. When this comfort is disrupted, Christians are often at a loss because they have not had to build skills for constructive engagement with difference. They may become defensive, positioning themselves as victims of anti-Islamomisic work and co-opting the rhetoric of violence to describe their experiences of being challenged on religious privilege. (adapted from "Christian Fragility")


So...what's "misia"?

You may be wondering why "misia" is used sometimes instead of the suffix "phobia." If you've not encountered "misia" language before, you may also be wondering what it means. Well never fear! We are more than happy to explain this relatively new shift in language.

The suffix "phobia" comes from the Greek word for "fear of," and so it denotes an intense aversion to the part of the word that precedes it (e.g. arachnophobia is a fear of spiders). Words like "homophobia" or "Islamophobia" are pretty recognizable, and most folks understand them to mean a position or perspective that is prejudicial and discriminatory against LGBTQIA+ identities and the religion of Islam respectively. 

The problem with using "phobia" terms as labels for prejudice is that there are folks who actually have phobias (real anxiety disorders in which someone experiences intense anxiety or fear that they're unable to control—Claustrophobia, for instance). So when we use terms like "homophobia," we are equating bigotry with a mental health disorder, which does several problematic things:

  • It relies on and reinforces the harmful stigma against mental illness (see the Anti-Ableism and Anti-Sanism tabs to learn more);
  • It inaccurately attributes oppression and oppressive attitudes to fear rather than to hate and bigotry;
  • It removes the accountability of an oppressive person by implying their actions and attitudes are outside their control.

So since labeling oppression with "phobia" suffixes is harmful, many folks are exchanging them for "misia" suffixes instead. Misia (pronounced "miz-eeya") comes from the Greek word for hate or hatred, so similar to how Islamophobia means "fear of Islam," the more accurate Islamomisia means "hatred of Islam."

For these reasons, you'll sometimes see "misia" language in place of "phobia" in an effort to be as accurate, clear, and inclusive as possible.

Books @ TCS & Subject Headings


In an effort at full disclosure, it should be noted that the collaborators on this guide occupy some of the oppressed identities outlined here, but not all of them. We have attempted to bring together quality, relevant resources for the anti-oppression issues in this guide, but we are not immune from the limits and hidden biases of our own privileges and perspectives as allies.

We welcome and greatly appreciate any feedback and suggestions for the guide, particularly from the perspectives and experiences of the marginalized groups listed and not listed here.