There is an interesting article in today's Handelsblatt: unfortunately, it's not online. Which is a shame.
Basically, Ferdinand Knauss has done a good job: he's identified what Islamophobia is and why it's important to know what it is.
First and foremost, it's got nothing to do with rejecting Islam: it's got everything to do with turning critics of Islam into mentally disturbed people.
Sound familiar? If you have ever taken a look at Soviet jurisprudence, one thing that stands out is the fact that many dissidents were condemned not for criticizing the Soviet state, but rather for being mentally ill.
The same is true for Islam.
Or, more specifically, the attempt to radicalize the religion and turn it into a mobilization tool to achieve political gains.
The first use of the concept "Islamophobia" was used - o wonder of wonders - in Tehran to stigmatize the opponents of the clerics, starting in 1979. The intent of those introducing the word was to pathologize opposition to Khomeini's brand of Islamism, to turn criticism into mental instability and sickness. This was fairly successful, and the Islamic Human Rights Commission used the term in advance of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie in 1988 to properly label him as someone sick and deranged.
This use has spread: the Commission for British Muslims and Islamophobia brought out a report in 1997 that demonized islamophobia as being equivalent to racial violence and anti-muslim discrimination. The commission belongs to the Runnymede Trust, a British think tank, financed in part by the British government. This was the first large-scale use of the concept in the press and spread the idea, the meme, that islamophobia is the same as racism.
This has spread to academia: the purported identity "islamaphobia = racism = danger" is not merely popular amongst political activists of the left, but has entered the mainstream in public documents. The EUMC, the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, stated in Dec 2006 that Muslims in the European Union were victims of islamophobia.
But they don't define it.
How could they?
Fundamentally, a phobia, as Herr Knauss rightfully points out, is an irrational fear of something. Afraid of small areas? Claustrophobia. Fear of spiders? Arachnophobia. The problem is that this is rightfully a psychological disorder, where, for instance, someone literally panics when a small spider appears, or is constitutionally incapable of sitting in a small room. A phobia is an indication of severe emotional problems, and is right and properly a sickness.
Not so "islamophobia".
Here is an excellent example of political correctness run amok: for daring to criticize the darlings of the left and the media, the use of the label "islamophobic" is a pejorative, a mislabeling, a deliberate misrepresentation of the facts. This is not about an irrational fear, but rather it is one of criticism: the left and radical islam is absolutely intolerant of the existence of any kind of criticism.
The core of Islam critics aren't western intellectuals, but rather what Islam considers apostates, former Muslims, such as Ali Sina and ibn Warriq. They know Islam from the inside, and their criticism is viewed by the dogmatic representatives of that faith as being nothing less than a sickness.
The use of "islamphobia" to describe critics of Islam is nothing more than an ad-hominem attack: by placing criticism on the same level as mental illness, Islamics can work without fear of criticism.
Like I said, this is nothing less than what Soviet psychiatry practiced. Criticize the regime, and you end up in a mental institution for the criminally insane: the mere idea that you would even want to criticize is proof of your insanity, as the state is the embodiment of the best of human endeavors and is as such beyond criticism.
Those using the term are themselves nothing more than dogmatic islamophiles, using the term deliberately to slap down dissent and criticism. If you can't criticize the religion, you can't differentiate it form your own: if you can't criticize the religion, then what is the the difference between it and your own? If you can't criticize the religion, then by what means can you say that you don't want sharia law? If you can't criticize the religion, then how can you prevent it from taking over everything?
You can't. That is the nature of totalitarian movements, and, bluntly, that is what the Islamists are all about. Their fellow travelers of the left have plenty of experience with that.