Vigil held for Nabra Hassanen, Muslim teenager killed on her way to a mosque

Daniel Kim/Senior Staff

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The campus Muslim Student Association, or MSA, coordinated a vigil on Sproul Plaza on Tuesday evening to honor Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim teenager who was allegedly kidnapped on her way to her mosque in Virginia and later killed.

According to a Fairfax County Police Department, or FCPD, press release issued early Sunday morning, Darwin Martinez Torres, who has been charged with her murder, allegedly assaulted Hassanen with a baseball bat and drove her to a second location after getting into an altercation with a member of Hassanen’s group walking and riding their bikes to the mosque. Hassanen’s body was recovered from a nearby pond.

In response to the tragedy, vigils were held nationwide. ASUC Senators-elect Hani Hussein and Nuha Khalfay and MSA planned a vigil on campus following an Asr prayer.

MSA President Sarah Bellal said in an email that the vigil and prayer are meant to honor the memory of Nabra and provide a place for people to heal in the wake of the incident.

“We hope that people will realize how important it is to see Nabra for who she was, in every facet of her existence,” Bellal said in an email. “Hopefully in recognizing who she was, we can also recognize the realities of racism, misogyny and Islamophobia and their intersections.”

After the vigil, a healing circle was held at the Multicultural Community Center in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union exclusively for the community and affected family and friends.

FCPD repeatedly stated that there is no evidence to link Hassanen’s murder to Islamophobia.

Participants at the vigil, however, said they believe that the incident was a hate crime.

At the vigil, three members of the Muslim community spoke in front of the crowd. Hussein talked about the dangers of being Black, Muslim and a woman in the United States. Other speakers said everyone must stick together as a community in the face of tragedy. In addition, there was a song performed for Hassanen.

After the speeches, people in the crowd came together to light candles and placed them on the steps in front of Sproul Hall.

Emily Gottreich, a professor in the campus history department, alleged in an email she believes while this incident may have been instigated because of road rage, it is clearly an anti-Muslim and anti-female hate crime.

“Islamophobia (along with other forms of racism) has been latent in the US for a long time,” Gottreich said in an email. “Muslims are being targeted simply for practicing their religion during the holiest month of the year for them. It is unacceptable.”

Bellal said Muslim communities have been fearful in response to the incident and have been organizing self-defense classes.

Khadija Abdullah, a member of the Muslim community, created a fundraising campaign to raise $350,000 for Hassanen’s family.

Contact Atira Nair at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @atirastar.