Islamic leaders are questioning Virginia detectives’ insistence that the beating death of a teenage Muslim girl appears to have been a case of road rage, saying the attack looks all too much like a hate crime.

Nabra Hassanen, 17, was bludgeoned with a baseball bat early Sunday by a motorist who drove up to about 15 Muslim teenagers as they walked or bicycled along a road, Fairfax County police said. A Hassanen family spokesman said all the girls in the group were wearing Muslim headscarves and robes.

Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old from El Salvador suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, was jailed without bail on a murder charge after the girl’s body was pulled from a pond near his apartment.

Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said there is a strong possibility the crime wouldn’t have happened if the teenagers weren’t Muslim.

“You can’t just say, ‘Oh, he didn’t say anything against Islam, so no hate crime,’” he said.

Fairfax police, in their account of the attack, said that Martinez Torres and one of the boys in the group got into an argument, and the motorist chased the youngsters down and got out swinging the bat. They said Martinez Torres beat Hassanen as her friends scattered, then put her in his car, assaulted her again and dumped her body.

“No evidence has been uncovered that shows this murder was motivated by race or religion,” police said in a statement Monday night. “It appears the suspect became so enraged over the traffic dispute it escalated into deadly violence.”

But after a string of attacks on Muslims around the world, most recently in London and in Portland, Oregon, some are deeply skeptical.

Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer and Muslim activist who lives in the Washington suburbs, ridiculed the notion it was road rage, saying on Twitter: “If you think for a minute that her appearance had nothing to do with this crime, you’re lying to yourself.”

Chaudry said that when a Muslim commits a crime, officials are quick to treat it as an act of terror, but when the perpetrator is not Muslim, police seem to approach it differently.

Meanwhile, Muslim groups planned vigils around the country Tuesday to honor Hassanen. And her mosque, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, announced plans for her funeral on Wednesday and encouraged people to come together and “respond to bad with good.”


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