The French origins of ‘Islamophobia denial’

Reza Zia-Ebrahimi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Denial of Islamophobia as a form of racism is widespread among French intellectual and political elites. Time and again it has been claimed in op-eds, talk shows, investigative journalistic work and even in full-length books devoted to the topic that the invocation of Islamophobia is part of an Islamist conspiracy to ‘silence legitimate criticism of Islam’, and no less than a threat to ‘republican values’ and laïcité (laicism). Even anti-racist activists would want to see the term ‘banished’, and academic dictionaries of racism see in it a tool of ‘blackmail’ and ‘intimidation’. Though what I call ‘Islamophobia denial’ can be observed across the western world, France is exceptional on two accounts: first, virulent denial is the most common mainstream posture on Islamophobia, transcending traditional political camps, whereas in other parts of the western world denial is more localized on the right and the far right. Second, the argumentative toolbox of Islamophobia denial, a consistent if problematic set of assertions and allegations to be found in all its global iterations, from the United States to Scandinavia, was developed in France and proceeds from the specific intellectual history of the ‘Muslim question’ in that country. It is that history of origins, development and reception that this article sets out to analyse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-346
Number of pages32
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2020


  • Caroline Fourest
  • clash of civilizations
  • denial of Islamophobia
  • France
  • laïcité
  • Pascal Bruckner
  • Pierre-André Taguieff
  • racism
  • white fragility


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