Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon
Nabra Hassanen is no longer with us. Her light in this world was extinguished and her last moments on this earth were exceptionally brutal. No one should experience what she experienced. The culpability for her murder extends beyond her rapist and killer—and when I wrote to this truth—furiously writing two articles in rapid succession, to process this loss, my inbox was riddled with pushback and hate that I dared to call the cause of her death “Islamoracism.”
The semanticists came forth to argue that Muslim is not a racial category, missing the point that the nomenclature shifted to describe a systemic disenfranchisement of anyone racialized to be associated with Islam in America. Then the police department ruled the cause of her death to be ‘road rage’ even as news that they were testing for her rape leaked shortly thereafter. Rape is an act of hate and violence, and yet still no one was willing to call it a hate crime. This is a system set up to turn an ignorant eye towards the violence that strikes my community, forcing the victims to plead, protest and lobby in order to get law enforcement agencies and the media to see beyond their privilege and to acknowledge what is really happening.
My sister, Hajjah Safiyyah Fatimah Abdullah said it best when I interviewed her, “There is, and in fact, has always been a concerted emphasis in this country on ‘de-humanizing’ people of color. In doing so, that allows the media to further shape public opinion that when incidents of violence occur, it is not reflective of the broader social construct in this country, but rather, an isolated, and therefore unavoidable and unaccountable occurrence that does not need to be addresses in a broader social spectrum. In other words, in classifying it as ‘road rage’ or ‘a parking space dispute’, it lays lie to the reality that due to the current racist and Islamophobic atmosphere of our society, the perpetrator is not at fault for following a group of teenagers, and then attacking them. It is well beyond ‘Road-Rage’ when you not only attack a group of people that were no threat to you, but then kidnap…yes, kidnap…he picked Nabra up and put her in his car, and then took her somewhere to bludgeon her to death, to the point that when the police found the body they said that they found the ‘remains’, not the body, but the remains and will perform an autopsy to determine identity and cause of death. That is not road-rage, that is hatred…and it was that same hatred that caused him to follow the kids in the first place. The decision by the Fairfax Police Department to label it as road rage instead of a hate crime allows the police to continue to defuse the tensions within the Muslim community and ignore the hatred of Muslims across the country; thus, insuring our community doesn’t rise up in righteous indignation. ‘Road rage’ is forgettable; it is an isolated incident whereas ‘hate’ indicates a pattern, and prompts a public discussion on the rise of violent Islamophobia. It is the same process that they use for ‘defusing’ the shooting of Black, Brown and Native people by the police. It is the responsibility of our leaders and our communities to rise up and demand that the crimes be labeled for what they are, hate crimes, and be recognized as such. It’s time for our leaders to ‘man-up’ and stop being afraid.”
Then the unimaginable happens, Nabra Hassanen’s memorial is set on fire.
The apologists and deflectors are oddly silent. Those that began their semantic debates with my inbox have disappeared under the bridges from whence they came. While we Muslims are left knowing, not only was our young sister brutalized and slain but that the violence and hatred in this nation is such that, there are people (I use that term loosely) who took it upon themselves to further the torture on Nabra’s family and friends, as well as the greater Muslim community, by burning a memorial left to honor her.
This is not fueled simply by an irrational fear, it is systemic, and it is sadly the world that we as Muslims have to navigate.
I’m tired of living in a place where hate, violence and hypocrisy reigns supreme. Where is the acknowledgment of the truth? Where is the justice? Where is peace?