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Community Pays Respects To Muslim Teenager Killed In Virginia

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

People in Northern Virginia yesterday mourned Nabra Hassanen. She's the teenager, 17 years old, who was beaten to death early Sunday morning as she walked to a mosque. The suspect is named Darwin Martinez Torres. He's accused of dragging her into his car outside the Fairfax County mosque, and her body was found in a neighboring county. Police say the case was not a hate crime but road rage. Her family is not convinced. Carmel Delshad of WAMU attended yesterday's vigil.

CARMEL DELSHAD, BYLINE: Nabra Hassanen, a smiling, glasses-wearing teenager who loved rap music, was carried into the mosque in a casket. It was placed at the front of the prayer hall at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, also known as ADAMS. Imam Mohamed Magid began his sermon with a confession.

MOHAMED MAGID: This is one of the most difficult funeral I've ever presided over. She was so generous, so bright, so beautiful, so energetic, so giving, so caring.

DELSHAD: Across the mosque, men, women and children gathered to watch the imam's message and pray for Nabra. Women sobbed into each other's arms. Others emerged with red-rimmed eyes and looks of disbelief. They were still trying to make sense of it all. How could a 17-year-old be walking with friends one moment and wind up dead just hours later?

That question was also on the minds of many during the vigil for Nabra in Reston, Va., later that day. The event was organized by her classmates at South Lakes High School. Everyone was welcome. Mariam Ali brought her five children with her. She attends the ADAMS mosque and knows Nabra's mother.

MARIAM ALI: We're trying to just understand and live through the moment. It's a very hard time right now for all of us as a community.

DELSHAD: Ali's 14-year-old daughter, Ahlam, sees a bit of herself in Nabra.

AHLAM: It could have been anybody. We all love and care about each other. We've come here as a community to show our respect and our solidarity for one another.

DELSHAD: And in that spirit, hundreds of people of all ages and religions packed into a plaza for the vigil, many with flowers in hand. They cried as Nabra's friends spoke of her kindness and generosity. Rosalie Kendall came from Arlington, Va., and she brought a sign that read, quote, "Nabra Hassanen. Say her name." Kendall, like many at the vigil, want Nabra's name to live on, to stand for something more than the victim of a senseless crime.

ROSALIE KENDALL: When we talk about victims of violence, especially women of color, we tend to talk about a Muslim woman, a black woman. And we don't talk about them as if they are full people. We talk about them as if they're disposable and interchangeable.

DELSHAD: The root of the name Nabra in Arabic means to uplift, to ascend, to put on a pulpit. Fittingly, her friends and family released white balloons in the air at the vigil, looking up to the sky and remembering her name, Nabra.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Chanting) When I say nuh (ph), y'all say bruh (ph). Nuh.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Bruh.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Nuh.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Bruh.

DELSHAD: For NPR News, I'm Carmel Delshad in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.