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Hate crime? Muslim student attacked at University of Washington

'No one deserves this,' says UW student Nasro Hassan. She says she was attacked on the University of Washington campus Nov. 15.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter
'No one deserves this,' says UW student Nasro Hassan. She says she was attacked on the University of Washington campus Nov. 15.

Interfaith leaders say an attack on a Muslim student on the University of Washington campus could be a hate crime.

They want the FBI to investigate the Nov. 15 incident.

Nasro Hassan says she was leaving Mary Gates Hall in the early evening on the Tuesday after the election when a man struck her in the face with a bottle.

“I had a black eye and a really, really bad concussion -- like this whole side of my face was purple,” Hassan said.

Hassan said she didn't get a good look at the attacker and in the report taken by UW police described him as male with a black sweatshirt. University police are investigating.

At a news conference with interfaith leaders Monday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations said it will offer a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.

And the leaders criticized the university for not issuing a campus-wide alert when the incident occurred.

In a statement Nov. 17, UW President Ana Mari Cauce referred generally to violence on campus and elsewhere but didn’t refer to a specific incident.

The UW police say they were following federal law on sharing information about crimes that occur on campus. The UW says a campus-wide alert was not warranted. But the interfaith groups say the university could have issued an alert. So Monday they called for an FBI investigation of a possible hate crime.

The FBI issued a statement saying it takes allegations of hate crimes “very seriously,” but that it will defer to the University of Washington police. So it doesn’t appear that the FBI is going to open an investigation at this time – absent new information.

On  Monday, Cauce condemned the attack.

"We stand with the Muslim community here today and all who oppose any form of bigotry, harassment, or hate," Cauce said in a statement. "Our university is and will always be a welcoming place for people of every race and faith, including our Muslim students, faculty and staff."

Hassan was born and raised in Fargo, North Dakota.

She’s a freshman studying computer programming at the UW.

She says the man didn’t tell her why he attacked her.

“Was it because I was wearing a hijab? Was it because of the color of my skin?” she said. “Like you didn't give me a reason or anything. I was just baffled and confused, really.”

She said friends and family – especially her mother – have been worried about her.

“I tried to remind them that it's not because of who we are, because we're good people and I don't know what else to say to them.”

She said this wasn’t the first time she’s been singled out.

“Kids at school used to be rude because of the hijab -- where they pull it off and make fun of me or call me bald because they couldn't see my hair,” Hassan said. “But you know it's just something you learn to ignore.”

She’s got a message to others.

“Stuff like this shouldn't happen to people because of being a Muslim,” she said. “We’re your neighbors, we’re citizens, we’re just like everyone else. And no one deserves this.”

Produced for the web by Gil Aegerter.

Year started with KUOW: 2004