Nabra Hassanen, 17, was known as a “really nice girl” who "always talked with a smile." Like millions of other American Muslims, this hijab-wearing young woman was observing the month of Ramadan. In fact, very early Sunday morning she was doing what so many Muslims do during Ramadan, which requires fasting from sunrise to sunset: She was eating breakfast before sunrise and then heading to the mosque to pray.
But that’s where Hassanen’s story differs from others. While walking with her teenage friends toward the mosque after eating a nearby IHOP, she was confronted by a motorist who jumped out of his car and began swinging a baseball bat at this group of hijab-wearing teenagers. The girls ran for safety but soon they noticed that Hassanen was not with them. That’s when the authorities were contacted.
Tragically on Sunday afternoon what was believed to be Hassanen’s lifeless body was located in a nearby pond. Hassanen’s mother stated that the police told her that her daughter “was struck with a metal bat.” As Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman remarked, “I can’t think of a worse instance to occur than the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day, as the father of a 17-year-old myself.”
Later Sunday the police arrested 22 year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, whom they had observed driving in the area suspiciously. He was soon charged with Hassanen’s murder.
Was the hijab-wearing Hassanen targeted for her faith? The police stated Monday that as of now they are not investigating this as a hate crime.
But still this murder has ratcheted up the fear many Muslim American parents have for their families during this Ramadan. As I wrote three weeks ago in the days before Ramadan began, Muslims organizations and mosques were adding extra security to protect their communities from hate crimes for this first Ramadan under Trump. After all in 2015 we saw a 67 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes as reported by the FBI. And the Council on American Islamic Relations released a report last month that found an alarming 44 percent increase in anti-Muslim hate crimes from 2016, noting attacks on Muslims Americans and our places of worship with several mosques burned to the ground.
I recall attending a dinner two years ago in Washington D.C. organized by Muslim Advocates where then U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch was the keynote speaker. Lynch made it clear to us that we Muslims Americans were not alone. Rather she vowed that her Department of Justice and the Obama administration were there to fight on her behalf to ensure we had the same rights as our fellow Americans.
But under Trump we feel more than alone. We now have a President who made Muslim bashing a big part of his campaign with lies like “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheered in New Jersey on 9/11 to his dangerously irresponsible comment “Islam hates us.” And of course Trump sought to bar all Muslims not already on U.S. soil from ever stepping foot in our country with his “total and complete” Muslim ban.
Add to that Trump has put together the most anti-Muslim administration ever. To put it bluntly there is a direct line from the Trump White House to anti-Muslim hate.
The Trump White House features such vile people as Steve Bannon who under his leadership turned Brietbart.com into an anti-Muslim hate website. And then there are Trump officials like Sebastian Gorka and CIA Director Mike Pompeo who have close ties to anti-Muslim hate groups.
Trump has also despicably ginned up fears of Muslims after ISIS inspired attacks but has been silent when people plan to or actually kill Muslims. For example after the June 3 terror attack on the London Bridge, the very next morning Trump tweeted three times about the attack, for example: “We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse.” Trump even slammed the Muslim Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, clearly taking his words out of context.
But then last night we saw an attack by 48 year-old white man Darren Osborne who reportedly yelled “I'm going to kill all Muslims” when driving his van into a group of Muslims exiting a local mosque in the Finsbury section of London. As of now one person is dead and many injured. British Prime Minister Theresa May declared in response that “this was a terror attack on Muslims near their place of worship,” adding that it was “every bit as sickening” as the recent terrorist attacks on London Bridge and in Manchester.
So did Trump tweet about this attack like he did with the London Bridge attack? Of course not. Muslims lives only matter to Trump when he can demonize us for political gain. Instead Trump sent out two tweets Monday morning, one urging people to watch his lawyer on Fox News, which he oddly deleted. And then a tweet about the special congressional election in Georgia tomorrow.
But this is expected. Trump didn’t comment on his personal Twitter account after a white supremacist terrorist killed two people in Portland in May for standing up to his anti-Muslim tirade. We didn’t see Trump tweet last week when right-wing white terrorist Robert Doggart was sentenced to 19 years and 10 months in a federal prison for plotting to kill Muslims in New York. Any doubt if Doggart had been Muslim and plotting to kill Christians Trump would have used that event to gin up fears of Muslims?
As of now we don’t know if 17- year-old Hassanen was killed because she was Muslim. But I can say with great confidence that even if she was, Trump truly wouldn’t care. After all, to Trump we Muslims are simply props for his hateful campaign platform– not fellow Americans.