Imagine it being Ramadan, the most blessed month of the Islamic calendar. Imagine a local mosque full of worshippers praying together. Amidst of all these worshippers, imagine a 17-year-old girl praying very hard for her future, for her family, for her friends, for a better life, for America.
Now, imagine that girl going out for late-night snacks and being beaten to death.
Just stop for a moment and let that sink in. A 17-year-old beaten to death by a baseball bat and then thrown into a pond.
Nabra Hassanen is the latest victim of an incident that is yet-to-be-identified-as-a hate crime.
Mosque officials said she and her friends were coming back from eating during a break from Ramadan prayers when a car pulled up and a man with a baseball bat jumped out and started swinging at the group of girls.
The teens were walking on Dranesville Road toward the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center in Sterling, Virginia, at around 3:30 a.m. on Sunday after grabbing breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s before beginning their fast at sunrise for Ramadan, police and mosque officials said. All the other girls were successfully able to get back to the mosque unharmed, except Nabra Hassanen who was left behind.
Shortly after finding the remains Sunday afternoon, officers arrested 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres and charged him with murder in connection to the case.
While it was evident that the teens were Muslim, police on Monday tweeted, “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.”
I can’t imagine how she must have felt when she was left alone. She might have tried to run. She might have begged for mercy. She might have screamed for help. She must have been so scared seeing death from this close.
I simply can’t imagine.
I can’t get myself to think how the parents who were preparing to celebrate Eid next weekend are now going to prepare for their daughter’s funeral. I can’t imagine how terrified Nabra’s friends must be at the moment. They were just with their friend moments before she was kidnapped, and now she is gone.
Nabra’s mother, Sawsan Gazzar, told the Washington Post, “I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she’s Muslim.”
“Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?” she asked.
This isn’t the first family to be torn apart because of Islamophobia. This isn’t the first hate crime to happen against Muslims or people who look like Muslims.
And let’s be honest, this won’t be the last time, given our President’s rhetoric.
Even during Trump’s campaign, harassment and attacks against the Muslim community started to rise. Within the first month of the election, SPLC reported 1,094 incidents of harassment and intimidation against immigration, Black folks, Muslims, LGBT community, women and the other minorities.
Just this year alone we have had multiple incidents to keep Muslims alarmed. Mosques have been vandalized and have been receiving hate letters all over the country. Muslim airline worker was kicked, threatened and told ‘Trump is here now’. An Indian man had lost his life only because he looked Middle Eastern. Two men lost their lives because they stood up for Muslim girls on a MAX Light Rail.
Anti-Muslim rhetoric isn’t only affecting Muslims. It affects us as a whole. As a society.
Yes, the Fairfax County Police caught the perpetrator and charged him with murder in connection to this case soon after Nabra’s remains were found.
But don’t perpetrators of violence almost always get caught? They are caught, but they aren’t labeled terrorist. They are always labeled mentally ill. And unfortunately, this has become a norm.
How many more lives do we have to sacrifice for the heinous crime to be called what it is? This was a hate crime. Nabra lost her life to anti-Muslim rhetoric. Our fight doesn’t end here. We have to fight this together. We can’t let Nabra’s life go in vain.