The hidden history of Islamophobia

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle in specialist publication


This article argues that Islamophobia has a long history in Australia and an even longer history in European culture. It has played a key role in the history of Western empire building: from Napoleon’s occupation of Egypt in the early nineteenth century through to the latest US venture in Iraq. In Australia, Islamophobia developed as one of the central ideological tools used to justify Australia’s participation in the first Gulf War in 1991, its part in the “coalition of the willing” in Iraq in 2003 and its ongoing support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Islamophobia has also played an important role in domestic politics. The demonisation of Muslims has served as a “weapon of mass distraction”, displacing anger and concern over working class issues onto fear and hysteria about the Muslim enemy within. Anti-Muslim demagogy has also served to shape a broader climate of hostility to migrants, refugees and other non-Anglo sections of Australian society: a classic ruling class tactic of divide and rule. This article explores various historical uses of Islamophobia throughout the twentieth century. It will also argue that Islamophobia is not just the prerogative of the far right – it is a mainstream, bipartisan affair. Indeed, there is a symbiotic relationship between the political mainstream, Labor and Liberal, and the fascist and extreme nationalist groupings. The article also draws strongly on Deepa Kumar’s work and her identification of “liberal Islamophobia” as a softer but no less dangerous form of bigotry
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationMarxist Left Review
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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