The New York Times reports that a 43-year-old South Asian man was assaulted by two men yesterday while he was walking with his niece in Parkchester in the early evening.
Two unknown assailants approached the victim and began punching him while yelling “ISIS! ISIS!”; when the victim fell to the ground, they proceeded to kick him as well, leaving him with multiple bruises to the head and face. The victim’s niece was apparently unharmed.
The unnamed victim was apparently targeted because he was wearing a shalwar kameez, a traditional South Asian form of dress popular in India and Pakistan, and named for the pantaloon (“shalwar”) and tunic (“kameez”) separates that make up the full outfit. Shalwar kameez styles vary by the wearer’s culture and geography. Regardless, the shalwar kameez is not a specifically Muslim form of dress, and it is also popular among Hindus and other non-Muslim South Asians.
As such, this incident appears to be yet another example of rising Islamophobia within the United States that targets not just Muslim Americans, but also anyone whom racists mistake as Muslim. The words “ISIS” and “terrorist” are increasingly being used interchangeably by bigots to refer to anyone Middle Eastern or South Asian, or to express hatred for articles of clothing or faith typically associated with the Middle Eastern or South Asian world, whether of Islamic origin or not. Islamophobia — already on the rise in this nation since 9/11 — is quickly taking on the appearance of racial intolerance.
The victim in Saturday’s attack was taken to hospital for care and released, and police are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime. Anyone with information about the attack is urged to notify New York City police.