Muslim Community Expresses Fear After Killings of Men in Albuquerque

Muhammad Imtiaz Hussain is afraid to step outdoors his house in Albuquerque to water his crops. Or retrieve books from his automotive. And even enterprise out onto his balcony.

“My kids won’t let me go outside of my apartment,” stated Mr. Hussain, 41, whose youthful brother Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, was fatally shot every week in the past Monday just some blocks away. He was one in all 4 Muslim males who have been killed not too long ago within the metropolis — three up to now two weeks — and authorities imagine the deaths are related and meant to focus on the Muslim group.

The newest sufferer, a Muslim man in his mid-20s from South Asia whose identify has not been launched by the police, was killed on Friday simply earlier than midnight. One other man, Aftab Hussein, 41, was fatally shot on July 26. Authorities say that the killings of all three may be related to the November 2021 killing of Mohammad Ahmadi, 62, outdoors a enterprise he and his brother ran.

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Because the Albuquerque Police, the F.B.I. and the State Police appealed to the general public for assist in discovering the killer or killers — on Sunday authorities described a car of curiosity, a dark-colored, four-door Volkswagen sedan — the assaults have left Muslims in a state of terror.

One member who attended the Islamic Middle of New Mexico, the identical mosque as all 4 of the victims, stated that he might by no means return, citing a concern of turning into “bait.”

Different members have briefly left the state to stick with members of the family in different elements of the nation to attend out the investigation. One man, who immigrated from Iraq, stated that he felt safer again when he first got here to the nation within the Nineteen Eighties. One other member, Salem Ansari, stated that some who attend the mosque and work night time shifts have stop their jobs.

“This situation is getting so much worse,” Mr. Ansari stated.

Ahmad Assed, president of the mosque, stated that he grew up in Albuquerque attending the Islamic Middle however by no means felt remoted as a Muslim within the metropolis. However now, he stated, the group goes by a “sort of managed panic.”

The elder Mr. Hussain stated that he had lived safely in his neighborhood for eight years since transferring to the US together with his spouse and kids. His brother Muhammad arrived in 2017, and each males would go to the library at midnight or purchase coffees late into the night whereas attending the College of New Mexico as worldwide college students.

“Now, I look outside the window and think, ‘Oh, this is the place where my brother was killed. Should we move?’” he stated.

Mr. Hussain stated that he had initially hoped to ship his brother’s physique again to be buried with household in Pakistan, however the quite a few gunshot wounds had made his brother unrecognizable, and Mr. Hussain didn’t need his household to see him. The killer “wanted to finish him — the whole nine yards,” he stated.

Usually, anti-Muslim hate crimes in the US have been trending downward. Brian Levin, a professor of felony justice at California State College at San Bernardino and the director of the college’s Middle for the Research of Hate and Extremism, stated that the variety of hate crimes reported towards Muslims was decrease in 2020 than in any 12 months since 9/11, although he added that these numbers could also be skewed due to pandemic restrictions.

However he stated that hate crimes stay a priority: They rose greater than 20 % in 2021 and elevated one other 4.7 % within the first half of 2022, the middle reported. Additionally, “underlying anti-Muslim attitudes” are pervasive and resurface throughout occasions of nationwide hardship, in response to Professor Levin’s research.

The authorities stated that they’re refraining from utilizing the time period “hate” in labeling the crimes till a motive may very well be established.

Simply final 12 months, the Islamic Middle confronted an tried arson from a girl who the police say set three fires on the mosque playground and one hearth on the mosque’s major entry. Nobody was injured, and the girl was arrested and charged with arson. The case is pending.

The Islamic Middle has instructed its practically 2,500 members to remain house as a lot as they’ll, use the “buddy system” when going out and chorus from “engaging with or agitating” anybody, Mr. Assed stated.

He added that he nonetheless felt supported by different communities however that this time he additionally was feeling a way of “hopelessness and despair.”

“I do watch my back and get in the car. I’m watching all my surroundings,” he stated. “You don’t know whether they’re following you from the mosque, if they’re actually watching people going in and out of the mosque and following them elsewhere. The pattern is unknown.”

Some group members have expressed frustration concerning the lack of particulars from the police investigation, however Mr. Assed stated he was in touch with authorities and understood why they’ve stored any developments beneath wraps. Authorities have neither elaborated on why they imagine the killings are linked nor indicated whether or not there have been any witnesses.

Mr. Hussain stated that he needed the federal and state governments to pour as many assets as doable into catching the killer.

However till somebody is caught, nothing is more likely to reduce his concern — or his grief.

“My 5-year-old keeps asking, ‘Hey, where is my uncle?’” he stated. “She’ll see me crying and say, ‘Are you a crybaby? Why are you crying?’ But we can’t tell her. Not yet.”