Is it a hate crime? Washington Post offers strong coverage of Muslim girl's D.C.-area slaying

Is it a hate crime?

That's a key question after the slaying of a 17-year-old Muslim girl in the Washington, D.C., area.

Regardless of the motivation, of course, the death of Nabra Hassanen is an unspeakable tragedy. My daughter is 17, and I can't help but identify with what the local sheriff told the Washington Post:

“I can’t think of a worse instance to occur than the loss of a 17-year-old on Father’s Day, as the father of a 17-year-old myself,” Loudoun County Sheriff Michael L. Chapman said

From the beginning, the Post has offered strong, insightful coverage of the murder case — boosted in large part by the expertise of the newspaper's stellar religion reporters, including Julie Zauzmer and Sarah Pulliam Bailey, a former GetReligionista.

That coverage has included excellent, factual stories (examples here, here and here) updating readers on the police investigation as well as how the victim's family and friends are handling the loss:

The Virginia teens were up late observing Ramadan, so they did what young people often do in the wee hours of the weekend: They went out for a bite to eat at McDonald’s.
But as they walked and biked back to the All Dulles Area Muslim Society mosque in Sterling, along a major thoroughfare, a red car approached from behind about 3:40 a.m. Sunday and chaos erupted.
The driver, Darwin Martinez Torres, a 22-year-old construction worker from Sterling, got into an argument with a teen on a bike and then drove his car over a curb, scattering the group of as many as 15 teens, police said. He caught up with them a short time later in a parking lot and chased them with a baseball bat, striking 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen and then abducting her in his car, police said.
Martinez Torres assaulted Nabra a second time, in Loudoun County, before dumping her body in a pond next to his apartment complex, where it was discovered about 3 p.m. on Sunday, police said. The medical examiner ruled Monday that the girl died of blunt-force trauma to the head and neck.
The horrific slaying of the South Lakes High School student reverberated beyond Virginia on Monday, as social media lit up with anger and grief, politicians expressed condolences and groups of various faiths condemned the violence. Many feared it was another hate crime targeting Muslims, coming shortly before a man driving a truck in London plowed into a group of people who had just finished Ramadan prayers. It follows a national upswing in attacks targeting Muslims since the November election.
So far, Fairfax County police said they have no indication that Nabra was targeted because of her religion, saying her killing was probably a “road rage incident,” although they continue to investigate the motivation.

Beyond the straight-news stories, though, the Post has supplemented its coverage with pieces such as Bailey's overview of "What happens when tragedy strikes Muslims during Ramadan."

This is a case where, obviously, it helps to have a Godbeat pro — or in the case of the Post, more than one — on the team:

News of two recent attacks on Muslims spread quickly as they unfolded within a 24-hour span. On Sunday, a teenage girl’s body was found in a pond near her mosque in Virginia. Another attack took place in London on Monday when a man drove a van into pedestrians outside a mosque.
Vigils for Nabra Hassanen, the teenager killed in Virginia, will be held in several cities this week, including New York, Philadelphia and Dallas. Fairfax County police said her killing was probably a “road rage incident,” although many Muslims, including her father, believe she was targeted because of her religion.
The attacks took place during Ramadan, a month considered holy by Muslims, who are expected to fast from dawn to sunset, pray, recite the Koran and give charitably.
“Ramadan is supposed to be a month of peace in every conceivable way,” said Qasim Rashid, a national spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, a sect of Islam. “For this to happen during a month of peace is even more painful.”
Muslims believe that the Koran was revealed to Muhammad, considered the founder of Islam, during Ramadan. The month, based on a lunar calendar, concludes with the feast-like celebration Eid al-Fitr, which is expected to fall within the next week.

Keep reading, and Bailey offers more helpful context and statistics. For the latest, see Zauzmer's report on the throngs who attended the Muslim teen's funeral this afternoon.

I know from too much past experience that these of types of stories are never fun to cover, but the Post team is doing a great job of informing and enlightening its readers. 

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