“When Muslims in the United States hear about this, it’s not just about the ADAMS community or the family members who just lost their daughter or their niece or their sister this weekend,” said Engy Abdelkader, a senior fellow at Georgetown University who lives in area. “The entire Muslim American community hears about it and experiences this kind of vicarious trauma.” While people in the Muslim community are trying to reserve judgment while law enforcement investigates, she added, “I think they feel under siege. This is part of a larger pattern.”
Within hours of the announcement of Hassanen’s death, news had spread widely on social media. Community members quickly started to mobilize in support of the family. Khadijah Abdullah, a Muslim woman who is part of the ADAMS Center, helped organize a LaunchGood campaign to raise money for Hassanen’s family. Within 24 hours, over $164,000 had been pledged. “She was a baby,” Abdullah said. “She could have been any of our children. It affects us deeply.”
Rana Abdelhamid, a 24-year-old Muslim woman who lives in New York, started organizing vigils in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Boston. She told me people from all over the country have been in touch about putting together similar events. Hundreds of people have said on Facebook that they’re planning to attend. Many, like Abdelhamid, seem to recognize themselves or their friends and relatives in Hassanen.
“It’s horrifying,” Abdelhamid said. Just two nights ago, she said, she was “doing the same exact thing that Nabra was doing: I was coming out from a prayer at 2 a.m., going to find a place to eat at 3 a.m.” During the holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, attending late-night prayers and gathering for nightly meals to break the fast, called iftars. Sometimes they’ll go out for late-night meals after praying. “This is very much something that young people do all the time in Muslim America,” Abdelhamid said.
An official with the Fairfax County Police Media Relations Bureau said “there’s no indication that the crime was motivated by hate or bias,” but “it’s not definitive.” The case is still in its early stages, he said, and “subject to change as information is gathered. I think the intent behind that tweet was to tamp down the fervor over it possibly being or possibly not being [a hate crime].” People were drawing conclusions about the incident, he added, “because of its proximity to the mosque.”
Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ray Morrogh, the prosecutor in the case, told WTOP’s Neil Augenstein, “Let’s wait until we get all the information and I’ll make the judgment.”
Late on Monday afternoon, the Fairfax County Police Department released additional information about the incident, calling “the tragic case … the result of a road rage incident involving the suspect, who was driving and who is now charged with murder.” Officials reaffirmed that they do not believe it was motivated by bias: “Our investigation at this point in no way indicates the victim was targeted because of her race or religion,” they said.