The narrative that has emerged in both media coverage and public discourse since… [the day of the violent shooting in Wisconsin] has been one of religious mistaken identity. It presumes that the killer, identified as a white supremacist named Wade M. Page, may have shot the Sikhs because he ignorantly believed they were Muslim.
Such a story line is accurate as far as it goes. Hundreds of times since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Sikhs have been the victims of bias crimes. The perpetrators have invariably assumed that because Sikh men wear turbans and have beards they are Muslims, even specifically Taliban. How terrible it is that it has taken the slayings in Wisconsin to serve as a national teachable moment about the theology and practices of the Sikh religion.
Yet the mistaken-identity narrative carries with it an unspoken, even unexamined premise. It implies that somehow the public would have ”” even should have ”” reacted differently had Mr. Page turned his gun on Muslims attending a mosque. It suggests that such a crime would be more explicable, more easily rationalized, less worthy of moral outrage.