A 52-year-old Muslim woman was stabbed to death outside of her apartment in Conroe, Texas, on Saturday, in an act for which police are still trying to determine a concrete motive.
Talat Jehan Khan, a Pakistani American pediatrician, has no clear connection to her assailant, 24-year-old Miles Fridrich, who is white. Although police haven’t explicitly said that the murder was motivated by Islamophobia, they are reportedly scouring Fridrich’s social media to determine whether he killed Khan due to her race, ethnicity or religious beliefs.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is also monitoring the outcome of the investigation.
“We are unsure at this moment if this was a hate crime; however, given the tragic circumstances, we are paying very close attention to the investigation,” CAIR’s Houston branch said in a statement.
Khan had two children, a 14-year-old daughter and a 23-year-old son. She was a beloved pediatrician in the area.
“Her kids and her kids she looked after as a pediatrician were her entire life. Everything in her life revolved around those two things,” Khan’s brother Wajahat Nyaz said.
Masjid Al Ansaar, the mosque Khan regularly attended, held a prayer service for her on Sunday. Khan had been at the mosque one day prior to her killing, “talking about her children, how her children were studying, growing up, and how she was going to start looking for a house,” said the mosque’s assistant director, Mohammed Ayubi.
“This is an immeasurable loss for our family,” Mahnoor Mangrio, Khan’s niece, told the local news station KHOU.
Historically, crimes targeting Muslim and Jewish people in the U.S. have increased whenever the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine escalates, Brian Levin, former director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, told The Washington Post.
“We are seeing a diversity of attacks, which range from noncriminal incidents all the way to threats, assaults, vandalism and bomb threats,” Levin said. “If we continue seeing these horrific images coming out of the Holy Land, we are going to see an even greater spike, not only in hate crimes, but also in much more violent types of plots, if history teaches us anything.”
Mainstream media’s depictions of Israel’s genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza are partially to blame for why Muslims are being targeted in the U.S., says Sahar Aziz, distinguished professor at Rutgers Law School and author of “The Racial Muslim: When Racism Quashes Religious Freedom.”
“While the police are still investigating the motive behind this tragic murder [in Conroe], Muslim communities across America are experiencing a surge in hate incidents at rates we haven’t seen since 9/11,” Aziz told Truthout. “The mainstream media’s one-sided coverage of Israel’s siege on Gaza erroneously conflate Hamas with Muslims and all Palestinians. As a result, some Americans are emboldened to discriminate and harass Muslims in their workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools. In turn, Muslims understandably feel a deep sense of vulnerability of being victims of hate crimes.”
Khan’s death comes just weeks after a landlord in a Chicago suburb murdered Wadea al-Fayoume, a six-year-old Muslim child who was one of his tenants. Witnesses say that the landlord, Joseph Czuba, stabbed al-Fayoume and his mother multiple times, killing the child and injuring his mother. There is evidence that Czuba was influenced by anti-Palestinian rhetoric from right-wing media prior to the attack, prosecutors have alleged.
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