In the wake of the brutal killing of Muslim teenager Nabra Hassanen in Virginia on Sunday, leaders in the Islamic community have publicly cast doubt on the insistence by police that the attack wasn’t motivated by her religion.
Twenty-two-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, an immigrant from El Salvador, has been charged with murder after Hassanen’s corpse was found in a pond near his apartment. According to police, Hassanen had been walking to a fast food restaurant with friends after a midnight prayer service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society Center when Torres, driving down the street in a car, began arguing with one of the teenagers. Torres is alleged to have become enraged and pulled his car onto the curb to chase the teenagers with a baseball bat, before finding the group in a parking lot and beating Hassanen. Torres is believed to have then put the injured Hassanen in his car before driving away. Police are still investigating whether or not Hassanen was also sexually assaulted.
On Tuesday, Muslim groups across the country held vigils in honor of Hassanen. The All Dulles Area Muslim Society reportedly planned to hold her funeral on Wednesday afternoon.
While police have repeatedly said there was “no evidence” that the murder “was motivated by race or religion,” Muslim activists have suggested that the attack likely wouldn’t have happened if the teenagers hadn’t been Muslim. Concerns about a possible hate crime were further exacerbated by an attack on a crowd of worshipers outside a mosque in London just hours before Hassanen’s murder.
“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, he didn’t say anything against Islam, so no hate crime,’” said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“This is a hate crime,” insisted the victim’s father, Mahmoud Hassanen. “It’s racism. Getting killed because she’s Muslim.”
Hassanen’s mosque has called on people to “respond to bad with good” in response to the killing, and has requested that the community try to wait for the results of the police investigation rather than “speculate on the motives and jump to conclusions.”