San Diego stands with Nabra

July 13, 2017

Vasilisa Crosthwaite reports from San Diego on a vigil for a murdered Muslim teen.

COMMUNITY MEMBERS gathered in front of the Natural History Museum in San Diego's Balboa Park on July 3 in solidarity with Nabra Hassanen, a 17-year-old Muslim teenager who was violently assaulted and murdered on June 18 in Sterling, Virginia.

The 50-person vigil--one of several called by activists in cities across the country in response to Nabra's death--was organized by Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) of San Diego, the Muslim Student Association, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Activist San Diego.

Outrageously, Virginia police concluded that the deadly assault on Nabra--who was wearing an abaya and walking with friends who were attending all-night prayers for Ramadan when she was attacked--was "road rage." "Even though the police tried to call this a road rage incident, we all know that is not the case," said ISO member Alon Ankonina, who attended the San Diego vigil. "This was a hate crime."

Many gathered for love and unity, but also to stand up and speak out against the increasing attacks against Muslim and other minority groups.

Community activists hold a vigil for Nabra Hassanen in San Diego
Community activists hold a vigil for Nabra Hassanen in San Diego (San Diego Immigrant Rights | Twitter)

A 2014 study by CAIR found that 55 percent of Muslim students in California reported being bullied based on their religious identity. That's nearly twice the national average, according to CAIR. Twenty-nine percent of students who wear a hijab reported being offensively touched by another student, and 27 percent reported being discriminated against by teachers.

SEVERAL PEOPLE who attended the San Diego vigil spoke about how dangerous it has become for Muslim-Americans as a result of Donald Trump spreading his Islamophobic rhetoric.

One of the vigil organizers, Mohamed M Elnakib, explained on the Facebook event page that the Supreme Court only partially lifted the racist Muslim travel ban on June 26, and the right is continuing to be emboldened by the administration's Islamophobic policies. The whole community must stand in solidarity against both street-based and institutional racist violence in order to defeat it, he argued.

"We must hold onto the hope and faith and this dark moment in time doesn¹t take over who we are as brothers and sisters," said Christian Ramirez of Alliance San Diego. "This is a heinous crime which we must condemn."

Activists are planning future actions to oppose violence toward Muslims. CAIR has organized an anti-bullying campaign in collaboration with San Diego Unified School District in alignment with the Safe Place to Learn Act (or Assembly Bill 2845), in order to protect Muslim students against Islamophobia and bullying.

The California legislature voted to pass the Safe Place to Learn Act last year, with the governor signing it into law in September 2016. In April, San Diego's school board voted unanimously to adopt the plan, but many of its protections have yet to be implemented.

In fact, the plan to protect Muslim students from bullying is receiving opposition from a group of six parents, who are filing lawsuit claiming that the campaign favors Islam over other religions and gives special protections to Muslim students. An attorney representing the parents called the campaign a "politically correct solution to a problem that does not exist."

Anti-racist activists will have to keep up the pressure if the protection promised in this legislation is going to become a reality. Protests, vigils, meetings and other acts of solidarity with Muslims who face violence and discrimination will have to continue if we are going to create an atmosphere where Islamophobia isn't tolerated for a moment.

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