On Sunday, Muslim teen Nabra Hassanen was assaulted and murdered after leaving her mosque in Virginia. The following day, a suspected terror attack on a London mosque rocked the city's Muslim community and provided a heartbreaking reminder that Muslims, especially women, are at a tremendous risk of violence.
Yesterday morning, a makeshift memorial for Hassanen in Washington, D.C. was set on fire at approximately 8:30 a.m. local time. According to district police, a 24-year-old South Carolina man was detained for the incident.
Dupont was one of several neighbourhoods across the country that held vigils for Hassanen, whose body was found in a pond last weekend. Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, has been charged with the teen's murder but authorities maintain the killing was a result of "road rage" and was not a hate crime.
“Nothing indicates that this was motivated by race or by religion. It appears the suspect became so enraged over this traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence,” Fairfax County police spokeswoman Julie Parker stated at a news conference.
The Muslim American community is understandably skeptical about this conclusion. According to the victim's family, Hassanen was wearing a Muslim head covering and a loose Islamic robe when she was abducted.
“Road rage. Indeed. If you think for a minute that her appearance had nothing to do with this crime, you’re lying to yourself,” tweeted attorney Rabia Chaudry, a prominent Muslim activist in the D.C. suburbs.
Now, police say the fire at Hassanen's memorial wasn't a hate crime either. A spokeswoman for US Park Police told The Huffington Post that “the memorial does not appear to have been specifically targeted.” However, a video posted by Fox5 DC shows charred flowers and what looks like a burned painting.
The suspect was released from custody today and a court date has been scheduled.
Meanwhile, there's mounting frustration and anger that neither Hassanen's murder nor the desecration of her memorial are being treated as hate crimes.
“We are saddened to hear reports that a memorial site for Nabra may have been set on fire,” the civil rights group Muslim Advocates said in a statement released today. “The idea that this could happen while her family and friends are mourning her loss, and memorials are held across the country is appalling. This is a sordid reminder that hate is thriving in our nation.”