One of the most obnoxious refrains you hear when you complain about Islamophobia in the United States being a form of racism is “Islam isn’t a race, it’s a religion.” It’s a nasty derailing technique that’s endorsed by luminaries such as Richard Dawkins.
And it’s wrong for transparent reasons. You don’t need to look far for other examples where religion and ethnicity are conflated within the logic of prejudice. You only need to look as far as the Holocaust, the single bloodiest genocidal campaign in history, which targeted anyone of Jewish ethnic descent regardless of what religious beliefs they professed, based on stereotypes that explicitly invoked biological, racial difference.
You don’t need to look far in our own time to find people being targeted for “looking Muslim” regardless of their racial beliefs, and indeed, you can find Dawkins’ fellow luminary Sam Harris openly endorsing racial profiling as policy.
But the sheer hypocrisy of saying that anti-Muslim prejudice is a consequence of rational disagreement with the tenets of Islam rather than xenophobic distrust of people who look different from “normal” Americans becomes most obvious when you see how much of it falls on Sikhs.
The conflation of Sikhs and Muslim “jihadis” in the mind of the Western Islamophobe shows how shallow said Islamophobia is–Sikhs do not originate from anywhere in the Middle East but from the Punjab region of India. Sikhism does not share Islam’s Abrahamic lineage and has no direct connection to Islam, unlike Christianity or Judaism–the boundary between East and West Punjab that became part of the India-Pakistan border was, in fact, drawn to separate the Punjab region’s Muslim population from its Hindu and Sikh population.
If anything, Sikhs are historically one of the more “pro-Western” ethnic groups in South Asia–the Sikh Regiment was the “backbone” of the British Indian Army and was heavily decorated for its contribution to the Allied victories in World Wars I and II. The connection between the Sikh community and the “Islamic terrorism” of Al-Qaeda and ISIS is nil.