‘Your people should all be executed’: What it’s like being a Muslim girl in America
Justice for Nabra, killed on her way home from a Virginia mosque
by Laila Husain
17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was assaulted and killed after leaving a mosque in Fairfax County, Virginia. 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres was just charged with her murder.
At around 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Nabra went missing after leaving a mosque in the Sterling area. She was walking with a friend when Torres drove by, got out of his car and assaulted her. Fairfax County police found her remains in a pond with a baseball bat nearby, just hours after the attack.
Two men were purportedly involved in the attack, and police are still looking for the second suspect. Police on Monday tweeted “We are NOT investigating this murder as a hate crime.”
Nabra’s story is reflective of a recent shift in American society where freedom of expression is used as permission to act on threats which have irreversible and sometimes fatal damage.
I have lived in the United States since I was three years old, and have witnessed instances of hate as a Muslim girl and now woman. From being heckled on the school bus in first grade following 9/11, hearing comments about my last name, my religion and where my family comes from, to being handed a note in high school, insisting that since my family is from Pakistan, I “knew” where Bin Laden was hiding all along.
I still believed in ignorance and innocence going hand in hand. But recently I’ve learned that’s not the case.
Since late last summer, I’ve been chased by someone down a Virginia state route — and reported their license plate to a state trooper hotline — as he screamed slurs at me and told me “my people should be executed.” In DC, I’ve been told “Donald Trump will give me what I deserve,” followed by being spat at.
Out of these instances, which I’ve always written off again, as ignorant, uninformed, unhinged individuals letting off steam, the one that struck me the hardest was in August of last year when a man accosted me outside my own home as I was trying to park my car. He followed me down my street, blocking me from entering any space I attempted to park in, and when I finally opened my window to say something, he got out of his car. I shut my window but he came up to me, with his face pressed against my window, screaming that I am a “sand nigger” and he would “fuck my muslim ass and show me who is boss,” while passers-by looked on. A neighbor ultimately intervened, but the man was relentless and said “need to keep these bitches in their place” to him, as he drove past me.
Nabra’s senseless murder occurred in a family friend’s neighborhood, not too far from D.C., where I live with my mother, so this really hits close to home. It’s currently Ramadan and usually we go to the Islamic Center in downtown DC to drop of food for Iftar, around sunset, or after breaking our fast for tarawih prayers, but in light of everything that has gone on this year, especially surrounding Muslim communities in Western countries, I’ve been extremely reluctant to go, or to even publicize the fact that I am fasting myself.
Prayers at the mosque or at least in a gathering with members of their respective communities on Eid are a really big deal for most Muslim families who have migrated to the US trying to seek a cultural tie to their home countries and traditions. As Ramadan concludes this week and Eid is set to be next weekend, and I’m absolutely terrified to even go, and my family will most likely figure out an alternate arrangement.
The Muslim community lost Nabra too soon. Her family are in our thoughts and prayers. They will get justice. America needs to be a safe space for everyone, not just the few.
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