Two nights after the June 18 death of Nabra Hassanen, 300 people gathered in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC to light candles, honor her memory and organize against Islamophobia. Hassanen, 17, had been on her way to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center early Sunday morning in Sterling, Virginia when she was assaulted, kidnapped and beaten to death. Police in Fairfax County have said that the incident was a result of road rage and was not motivated by bigotry. “Nothing indicates that this was motivated by race or by religion,” Julie Parker, director of public affairs for the Fairfax police, said in a news conference on June 20. “It appears the suspect became so enraged over [a] traffic argument that it escalated into deadly violence.”
But many around the country have reacted to this classification with deep skepticism and anger. “We name, and ask that our allies name, what this attack really is: hate-based violence that targets Muslim of color,” says Rana Abdul Hamid, an organizer of Tuesday’s vigil and founder of Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE), a non-profit that teaches Muslim women self-defense, storytelling and entrepreneurship. Behind Hamid stood a woman in a straw hat holding a sign that read, “American Jews in Solidarity with our Muslim cousins.”
This sign, and the many yarmulkes in the crowd, bore witness to the many Jews in the DC area that have gone out of their way to show solidarity and support for the Muslim community in the wake of this latest incident.
“The Muslim community was so supportive and wonderful when our Jewish day schools and JCCs received bomb threats, and I am very concerned that the Jewish community is not meeting their tragedy with the same level of solidarity,” says Rabbi Lizz Goldstein, who attended the Dupont Circle vigil as part of IfNotNow/DC Jews for Black Lives contingent. “My community stands with our Muslim brethren.”
“I think it’s clear that our central Jewish values call for us to stand with our neighbors when they are facing attacks,” adds Rabbi Joseph Berman, another local rabbi who attended the Dupont Circle vigil.
The following day, on June 21, thousands attended an interfaith ceremony led by Jewish and Muslim community leaders in Reston, Virginia. The speakers included Farris Barakat, the brother of a victim of a 2005 Chapel Hill shooting, along with Imam Mohamed Magid from the ADAMS center and Rabbi Michael Holzman of Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation. “How did this community get to be a place where Muslims can pray in a synagogue, as the ADAMS community does in our synagogue across the street, and where a synagogue can pray in a church every year on the high holy days?” asks Rabbi Holzman proudly. “As we heard from the Quran, as we heard from all of the different readings, light is what beats out darkness.”
Photo courtesy of Alejandro Alvarez / News2Share