Fifteen-year-old Abdisamad “Adam” Sheikh-Hussein, a Muslim, was on his way to play basketball with friends last Thursday evening when he was suddenly struck by a black SUV. Witnesses said they saw Sheikh-Hussein “fly through the air” before 34-year-old Ahmed H. Aden, who has driving the vehicle, ran the teenager over, nearly severing his legs.
According to court documents, Aden then crashed the Chevrolet Blazer, emerged from the wreckage wielding a knife, and threatened bystanders before he was apprehended by police.
Sheikh-Hussein, a straight-A student and sophomore at Staley High School, later died at a nearby hospital. Like many in his community, his family had emigrated to the United States from war-torn Somalia.
“This is a community that fled a violent situation,” Abdinajib Dirir, Sheikh-Hussein’s uncle, told the Kansas City Star. “Now we’re facing violence in the United States. … We are American like everyone else. And this is a tragedy for us.”
Sheikh-Hussein’s death is tragic, but local Muslims say the incident is made all the more painful by his killer’s suspected motive: anti-Muslim hatred. Aden’s vehicle was reportedly covered with a number of hateful messages, including one that read “Quran is a virus disease woreste [sic] than Ebola.” Aden, a truck driver who is described as a Somali-Christian, had reportedly been terrorizing the community for months, with members of the Mosque repeatedly alerting authorities to his frightening behavior. Moussa Elbayoumy, chairman of the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told the Kansas City Star that Aden had verbally threatened members of the mosque on multiple occasions, and once declared that he “intended to kill several people.”
Police are currently investigating the Kansas City death as a possible hate crime, but incidents of anti-Muslim hatred are becoming unsettlingly common in the United States. Although the FBI’s official hate crime statistics haven’t been released for this year, religious bias accounted for 1,163 hate crimes in 2013, 165 of which were anti-Muslim — second only to incidents of anti-Semitism, which made up the majority of hate crimes for the year. In fact, the attack in Kansas City comes in the wake of a series of disturbing incidents over the past few months that have rocked Muslims communities across the country.
- In early October, a threatening letter was sent to a mosque in San Diego, California. The envelope contained an unknown substance which authorities ultimately decided was harmless, but the letter also contained the phrase “death sentence.”
- On October 28, a vandal in St. Paul, Minnesota, spelled out “Fuck Islam” in motor oil on a driveway in a neighborhood where several Muslim families live.
- On the morning of November 4th, five shots were fired at a mosque in Coachella, California. Although four people were inside at the time, no one was hit. Authorities are investigating the incident as a possible hate crime.
- In mid-November, surveillance cameras recorded a woman spray-painting the wall of mosque in Santa Cruz, California.
- On November 20, visitors to a Bosnian-Muslim graveyard in Washington state were shocked to find the headstones of their dead family members destroyed.
- Last Thursday, a mosque in St. Cloud, Minnesota was vandalized for the third time in as many weeks, with unknown assailants repeatedly shattering windows at the house of worship.
Authorities in New York City have also already reported twice as many anti-Muslim hate crimes this year compared to 2013, a noticeable uptick that mirrors an equally large spike in anti-Semitic crimes in the same area. This in addition to anti-Muslim ads that have been plastered across buses and subway stations throughout the city since September.
In the midst of this wave of hate and violence, however, non-Muslim religious communities in Kansas City are working to show their support for their fellow people of faith. In the days following Sheikh-Hussein’s death, an interfaith memorial service was held to commemorate the young teen, bringing together leaders from a broad swath of religious traditions to grieve his passing. Among the mourners was Mindy Corporan, whose teenage son and father were shot and killed outside a Kansas City Jewish community center by a white supremacist in April.
“I read the news about Adam and my heart broke all over again,” Corporan said. “It doesn’t matter what faith we have. We shouldn’t kill one another.”