Islamophobia is real. An event like “2 Indian-Americans Shot, Mistaken for Arabs” reminds us that Islamophobic sentiments are currently produced through a racialization that includes a combination of “old racism” (skin color and ancestry) and “new racism” (culture and religious background).
The shooter in this event linked imagined features of “Muslim-ness” to people who are not even Muslim, and he subsequently subjected them to violence as a result of the racialization of Islam. The shooter clearly confused the victims’ physical appearance as a representation of Islam. He effectively used their bodies to categorize and to ultimately harm them in a terrible way.
The conflation of Indians and Middle Easterners shows how shallow Islamophobia can be. These two heterogeneous groups are from completely different parts of the world, and have significant differences in terms of ethnicity, cultural, religion, politics, etc. The shooter obviously does not care about – or apparently know about – such fine distinctions.
Ultimately, this story reminds us that you do not have to be a Muslim in any theological or cultural sense to be singled out for assault. Rather, what matters is how one looks, and whether those looks are conflated with Islam and Muslims.
That is why we say: Islamophobia is a form of racism.