Begreppet islamofobi beskrivs ofta som nutida. I t ex rapporten Muslimska Brödraskapet i Sverige som Myndigheten för Samhällsskydd och beredskap (MSB) gav ut 2017 påstås det att begreppet myntades i samband med brittiska Runnymede Trusts rapport, Islamophobia: A Challenge for us all från 1997.
Begreppet har dock en äldre historia. AbdoolKarim Vakil skriver i antologin Thinking through Islamophobia: Global perspectives (2010):
The term Islamophobia was first employed in its modern sense in French (‘islamophobie’), in the last days of the First World War and in its immediate aftermath. … Firstly, the term is used by its authors, Étienne Dinet and Sliman Ben Ibrahim, repeatedly, and consistently over a nearly twenty-year period. Initally in two closely related and complementary works – one a biography of the Prophet (on which Dinet had been involved since around the time of his taking the Shahada and the name Nasr-ed-din, in 1913), published in 1918; the other an important companion essay, conceived and announced at the same time, but concluded in 1921.