WASHINGTON – As the family prayed for her safe return, the body of a 17-year-old hijabi Muslim girl from Reston, Virginia, was found Saturday afternoon, sending shockwaves among the already devastated Muslim community.
Arsalan Iftikhar, a human rights lawyer and author, told the Washington Post that he and his wife were at the mosque at about the same time as Nabra and that her death has struck fear into the local Islamic community.
“People are petrified, especially people who have young Muslim daughters,” he was quoted as saying.
Nabra Hassanen, 17, was assaulted and killed in the early hours of Sunday as she walked home after prayers at a mosque near Washington.
Police have charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres with her murder.
“An investigation determined she was walking outside with a group of friends when they got into a dispute with a man in a car. It appears the suspect, Darwin A Martinez Torres, 22, of Sterling, got out of his car and assaulted the victim. Her friends could not find her and police were called to help,” a Fairfax county police statement said.
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?”
The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (Adams) mosque in Sterling, the biggest in northern Virginia, holds extra late-night prayers during the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Nabra was reportedly among four or five teenagers who had left the mosque in the early hours of Sunday. It was not unusual for worshippers to walk after nightfall in what is usually a safe neighborhood.
“We are devastated and heartbroken as our community undergoes and processes this traumatic event. It is a time for us to come together to pray and care for our youth,” a statement from the Adams mosque said.
“Adams has licensed counselors on site to assist anyone in need of counseling during these difficult times.”
A local congresswoman, Barbara Comstock, said: “We are heartbroken and horrified by the news of the brutal murder of a beautiful 17-year old girl. We know there is no greater pain for any parent and Chip and I extend our prayers to her family and loved ones at this difficult time and the entire Adams Center community.”
On a crowdfunding page to support Nabra’s family, donations surged to more than $120,000 by the time of writing the report.
A report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations found that anti-Muslim hate crime incidents rose sharply in 2015 and increased a further 44%, from 180 to 260, in 2016.