The Incomplete Media Narrative about a Murdered Muslim Girl

by Tiana Lowe

Early Sunday morning, a 22-year-old man bludgeoned a Muslim girl, Nabra Hassanen, to death with a metal baseball bat on her way home from an all-night Ramadan observance at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque. The murderer dumped the 17-year-old’s abaya-dressed corpse into a pond, where it was found by Fairfax County, Va. authorities later that afternoon. Outrage ensued, as it rightly should, given a murder so savage, thuggish, and evil. Yet once again, the media wildly overstepped its bounds to craft a false narrative.

“Muslim Teen Kidnapped and Brutally Murdered in Virginia: This Is Terrorism” read a headline from Affinity magazine. Actress and producer Mindy Kaling also decried the murder on Facebook as “another innocent Muslim person targeted for their faith.” The Atlantic then ran a profile, “‘Muslims Feel Under Siege’” highlighting Islamophobia around Ramadan. Many stories used Hassanen’s murder as a lede to foray into a greater narrative about the collective crisis of violence against Muslims.

But then actual facts and details around the case emerged. First, the Fairfax County Police Department publicly ruled out a hate crime as a motive, announcing that they were looking more closely into extreme road rage. Then, the Daily Caller reported that the murderer, Darwin Martinez Torres, was an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, with ICE confirming that it had issued a detainer request against him. Reports subsequently emerged that Torres, who has a girlfriend and son, barely speaks English and required the use of a translator following his arrest.

On these developments, the media has maintained near-complete radio silence. A Fusion piece reporting that the police ruled out anti-Muslim bias as a motive was still tagged as “Islamaphobia,” and did not include the identity of the killer. They declined to even label Torres a “white Hispanic” illegal immigrant!

That Torres’s motive was not as initially reported should make the murder no less enraging. And nor should his immigration status make it any more deplorable. But any conversation about Nabra Hassanen, be it about hate crimes or immigration policies, will inevitably be half-baked if we’re only served half-truths.

 

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