Islamophobia gathered pace in the West with the end of the Cold War, long before the September 11, 2001 attacks against the US, participants at a two-day OSCE conference that began in Spain Tuesday said.
"After the end of the Cold War, certain people took Muslims and Islam to be the new scapegoat and enemy," Mustapha Cherif, an expert on Islam at the University of Algiers, told AFP on the sidelines of the gathering.
"But after the senseless act of September 11, this has been amplified," added Cherif, who is known for his commitment to battling religious hatred.
Delegations from the 56 nations that make up the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are taking part in the conference in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba on the topic of intolerance toward Muslims.
Spain currently holds the rotating presidency of the OSCE, which promotes human rights, democracy and conflict prevention in Europe, North America and Central Asia.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mussa told the gathering that after the end of the Cold War, "conservative extremists in certain Western circles" needed to find a new enemy. (MORE)