I read an article about the small fire that was set at the memorial for Nabra Hassanen on Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. Wednesday. According to the police, the small fire was not a hate crime, and rather by the sounds of the article, the perpetrator was probably homeless or most likely suffers from mental illness. Frankly, that is one of the few logical conclusion I can gather as to why someone would set items at a memorial for someone who tragically died, on fire. I thought to myself, “Lord, can this young lady’s family please get a break? This poor girl and her memory has had to endure so much pain, and moreover many hateful crimes, that are not, at least by our legal characterization, a hate crime. As if this tragedy wasn’t bad enough, authorities have no publically come out and said they are investigating whether or not Nabra was sexually assaulted before she was killed.
I thought about her family and the pain they must be suffering from with the loss of this innocent young girl. The hopes and dreams they must have had for her, as they had watched her grow from an infant to a young woman. Now, they find themselves having to bury their baby girl. All because of one man’s rage and hate. Regardless, of if it is aimed at a race, ethnicity, culture or religion, indeed one must be consumed by hate to commit such a heinous act. One must hate life.
As I sat and pondered the pain of Nabra’s family, another ominous and sickening cloud began to float into my thoughts. I realized, it is almost unquestionable that Nabra Hassanen did suffer from a hate crime. However, the crime wasn’t committed on Sunday, June 17th by a deranged 22-year-old named Darwin Torres. No, this hate crime had occurred long before this past Sunday, and the suspects were us, the American people.
However, old you happen to be at this moment, count off the years of your life until you reach the age of 17. For me, at 35-years-old, that means I would have to shave off 18 years of my life. One more, than Nabra was afforded on this earth. Consider all that you have experienced past the age of 17. Basically, everything that encompasses adulthood, in addition to countless other experiences, that shape who we are now. Realize for a moment, Nabra Hassanen will never enjoy any of those experiences that you did. For Nabra, she never got a chance to enter adulthood before her life was cut short. In essence, her life was ended before it even began.
Now, all Nabra got was 17-years of life in this world, and yet I have to somberly wonder, even for those 17 years, what must it have been like for her? How drastically different must her American life have been than the many of the rest of ours. In truth, as a young Muslim girl, the night she died, must have ironically been one of the more comfortable walks she had taken in her young life. Because on that night, she was surrounded by 15 Muslims friends her age. However, how many walks before that, did she stroll around in fear? How many times did she walk around and see glares from people, or hear whispers as she passed, because of she wore a hijab in accordance with her Islamic faith?
Maybe, she never experienced any of these things. Maybe, instead, in order to protect herself from the leering public eyes she could have, she simply stayed isolated in some Islamic enclave. Away from the rest of the world. However, does that in itself seem like the freedom of life that you or I enjoyed during our teen years? Mind you, that’s just a speculation of best case scenarios that prevented her from any potential public bullying. Pretty sad, when isolation and seclusion are the best.
Nabra had to have heard about the fact just one week prior to her death, ACT for America, the nation’s largest anti-Muslim group, had staged nationwide “Anti-Sharia Law” rallies. Now, I caveat the rallies were, “Anti-Sharia Law” and not “Anti-Muslim.” However, how many of the people who attended these rallies, actually think that it is capable for a Muslim to live in America and not practice the Islamophobic view of Sharia Law? Essentially, for all intents and purposes, these 28 rallies across the U.S. were indeed anti-Muslim events. Regardless, of what they want to call them.
What do you think Nabra thought when she heard about the ACT rallies during her last week of life? Assuredly, her family or friends must have discussed the concerns of hate crimes against Muslims in America. Honestly, how could they have not, considering the fact that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, released a report in May that indicated that anti-Muslim incidents rose 57% from 2015 to 2016. Additionally, it showed an alarming, 65% increase in anti-Muslim incidents from 2014 to 2016. Clearly, she had to have heard about the incident in Portland, Oregon, where two men lost their lives defending a young Muslim girl, just about the same age.
Every time, there was an attack by a radical Islamic extremist, how much do you think she realized that she would be punished in the court of public opinion anytime she was seen out? She would have been only one-year-old, when September 11th happened. However, how many times in her, far too short life, do you think she was punished for the actions of those 19 Hijackers? How many friends do you think she never had because of her faith? How many trips to the mall, movies, bowling allies, or any other normal hang out that is a rite of passage for most of us, do you think Nabra never experienced? All because she was born Muslim.
I wonder if there was a moment when she realized she was going to die last Sunday? I wonder if, in that moment, Nabra ever wished that there wasn’t so much hate in this world. I wonder if Nabra Hassanen, ever realized that it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her fault that she lost her life and most importantly it wasn’t her fault that she grew up in a country that had no problem being so outwardly hateful towards her entire cultural identity.
In the end, that was the life and death for one beautiful young girl, who just so happened to have the unfortunate fate of being born Muslim in America.
17-years is all Nabra Hassanen got, and those were 17-years filled with hate. Hate from the very nation she was a part of. Simply because of who she was.
So, yes…. yes, indeed Nabra Hassanen was the victim of a hate crime. However, it started 17-years ago. It was a hate crime against the only years, that young girl would ever get. Tragically, the hate crime against Nabra Hassanen didn’t occur on Sunday, June 17th, 2017. Actually, that’s the day it ended.