A girl holds a sign during a rally by members of the Muslim community of Madrid outside Madrid's Atocha train station, Jan.11, 2015. Reuters/Juan Medina

With the rise of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and with several right-wing European politicians making headlines in recent months, focus has shifted to Islamophobia. But what really is Islamophobia?

Islamphobia is an exaggerated fear, and negative sentiments, even hatred toward Islam and anyone who follows the religion. This could be a result of negative stereotypes and discrimination.

According to Gallup, prior to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Islamophobia was mainly just a concept. In the past decade however, it increased tremendously. Even in the U.K. the Runnymede Trust had reportedly identified eight components of Islamophobia in a 1997 report. In a 2004 follow-up to that report, it found the lives of British Muslims had become difficult following the attacks.

"The usage of [the term] 'Islamophobia' in the U.S. increased after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but became more common during the 2008 elections and after a controversy erupted in 2010 over plans to build a mosque and community center near the site of the attacks," Jocelyne Cesari, director of the Islam and the West program at Harvard University and the editor of the Encyclopedia of Islam in the United States, previously said.

Throughout his presidential campaign Trump spoke out against Muslims and in Europe, far-right politicians such as France’s Marine Le Pen and the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders have maintained that immigration from Muslim-dominated countries should be stopped to deter terrorism. In February, Wilders reiterated a controversial statement on Moroccan immigrants, calling them “Moroccan scum.”

“Once again not all are scum but there is a lot of Moroccan scum in Holland who makes the streets unsafe, mostly young people,” he said at the time. “If you want to regain your country, if you want to make the Netherlands for the people of the Netherlands, your own home again, then you can only vote for one party.”

His one-man Freedom Party or PVV vowed to end Muslim immigration, close and stop construction of mosques and remove the Netherlands out of the European Union.

Similarly, on Dec. 7, 2015, Trump called for banning Muslims from entering the U.S.

"Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country's representatives can figure out what is going on. According to Pew Research, among others, there is great hatred towards Americans by large segments of the Muslim population," he said in a statement at the time.

But, earlier this month, the president’s campaign website took down the statement after a reporter asked about it.

In 2016, when Trump’s presidential campaign was at its peak, the U.S. witnessed record number of hate crimes and Islamophobic bias against Muslims compared to that in 2015, according to a May 9 report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).

“Harassment, a non-violent or non-threatening bias incident, was the most frequent type of abuse in 2016, accounting for 18 percent of the total number of incidents. Incidents during which the complainant was questioned by FBI employees or otherwise appeared to be inappropriately targeted by the agency made up 15 percent of cases, making this the second largest category,” CAIR wrote in its report. “Employment issues—including denial of work, being passed over for promotion, or harassment by a supervisor or other senior staff—were the third largest category, accounting for 13 percent of the total.”

Islamophobia can be tackled with several steps. According to CAIR, when witnessing Islamophobia it is necessary to document it, report it and take action against such incidents.

“The very existence of Islamophobia is something to be addressed. The degree to which individuals expressing Islamophobia have particular views of Muslims in their communities, Muslims globally, and Islam as a religion is genuine and quantifiable with measurable outcomes,” Gallup states.