Recent scholarship increasingly defines Islamophobia as a form of racism. The possibility that Islamophobia could also manifest itself as religious or cultural bigotry is generally overlooked. This article argues that although anti-Islam bigotry is intertwined with anti-Muslim racism, the two are conceptually distinct. Making this distinction allows us to better analyze, unmask, and critically assess Islamophobia. The article conceptually explores the similarities and differences between anti-Muslim racism and anti-Islam bigotry. It finds that although anti-Islam bigotry implies a prejudicial rejection of an essentialized idea of Islam, it understands religion or culture to be an individual choice and allows for the possibility that Muslims convert or assimilate. As such, it differs from anti-Muslim racism, which implies that the Muslim identity and the negative characteristics associated with Islam are innate and unchangeable. The article argues that contemporary Islamophobic political discourse in Europe is predominantly racist, although it hides behind a cloak of anti-Islam bigotry.

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