Afghan American Mother Shot

Religious hate seen as motive in killing
Fremont slaying: Muslim leaders and relatives of Afghan American mother shot at point-blank range say only motive they can imagine for anyone wanting her dead was the garment of her faith, her head scarf
Matthai Chakko Kuruvila, Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writers

Saturday, October 21, 2006

aliakilled2.jpg

The dead woman’s brother, Hassan Ansari, says his heart aches for her six children. Alia Ansari was walking with her 3-year-old when she was killed. Chronicle photo by Mike Kepka

Local Muslim leaders on Friday denounced as a likely hate crime the brazen daylight shooting death in Fremont of a mother of six, and police said that they had arrested a parolee described as a “person of interest” in connection with the slaying.

Killed Thursday by a single bullet to the head as she walked with her 3-year-old daughter on a well-to-do residential street, she was distinguished by a hijab, the head scarf worn by some devout Muslim women. The Afghan immigrant had no purse or money on her, family members said.

Stunned relatives and Muslim leaders said the only motive they could see, outside of insanity, would be hatred.

“Whoever did this did not see Alia Ansari, a mother of six children,” said Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, one of the nation’s most respected Muslim scholars and leaders, who spoke to the media outside of the Ansaris’ modest two-bedroom apartment. “He saw a symbol of something that people are taught to hate.”

“All that we can assume is that it’s a hate crime,” said Hassan Ansari, 23, the youngest of Alia Ansari’s seven siblings.

Fremont police said Friday that they don’t know why Ansari was killed. At about 2:40 p.m. Thursday, she was walking near Central Avenue and Glenmoor Drive with her 3-year-old daughter to pick up two other children from elementary school when a man opened fire before fleeing in a car.

“We still have no definite indication as to motive,” said police Sgt. Jeff Swadener, a department spokesman. “Was it racial? Was it a hate crime? Was it a street robbery or a random act of violence? I don’t know.”

Police said a 27-year-old Fremont man was being held on an unrelated parole violation but remained a person of interest in the homicide. His name wasn’t released.

Police detained the man about an hour after the shooting and about a mile away. Officers pulled the man over near Mowry Avenue and Blacow Road because he and his black Toyota Tercel matched the description provided by witnesses, police said.

“We’re still up in the air as far as the actual involvement or linking to the homicide,” Swadener said.

The Alameda County coroner had planned to do an autopsy Friday, but Ansari’s relatives said they want to keep her body intact because of their religious beliefs. A coroner’s spokesman declined to discuss the delay but said a decision on how to proceed could be made Monday.

Islam prohibits the desecration of any dead body, said Yusuf, co-founder of the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward, believed to be the first Islamic seminary in the nation. In addition, only female relatives are allowed to wash and view a naked female body.

Yusuf said that an autopsy of just Alia Ansari’s head, rather than her full body, would be acceptable.

Hassan Ansari, Alia’s brother, said family members were planning to take legal action to stop the autopsy, but said they were leaving the decision in the hands of her husband, Ahmadullah Ansari.

Throughout the day, a weeping procession of dozens of relatives and Afghan community members filed into the Ansaris’ apartment in the Glenmoor neighborhood of Fremont. It is a short walk from a cluster of Afghan businesses often called Little Kabul, the economic heart of the largest Afghan community in the nation.

Friends and relatives said they could see no reason, other than the head scarf, why a stranger would want to kill Alia Ansari, who was often described as “kind” and “innocent.”

Most classical interpretations of Islam require women to wear a head scarf, although only a fraction of American Muslim women wear one, several female Muslim leaders said.

“What happened here is an act of terrorism,” said Rona Popal, executive director of the Afghan Coalition, which provides services to the community. “There is no reason to shoot an innocent woman walking down the street, holding her child.”

Local Muslim leaders and the victim’s relatives attributed blame to an American culture of violence, propagated through movies and video games that reward players for killing. In addition, they said things such as talk radio, politicians and religious zealotry by some Christians had focused on Muslims since the Sept. 11 attacks.

“Justice will not be served by merely catching the killer,” said Hassan Ansari. “We have to figure out how to stop these kinds of things from happening. … American society is what feeds people’s ignorance.”

“Mostly it’s the fault of the media, because they show Muslims in such a way that people hate them,” said Feraidoon Mojadedi, owner of the Rumi Bookstore in Little Kabul. “People are dying all over the world, but what did she have to do with it? She’s a housewife, a mother of children.”

Three women at the Islamic Society of the East Bay said they would continue to wear head scarves even if the killing was a hate crime. “Even if they wiped out everyone on Earth, I would not remove the hijab,” said Suzanne Azim, 43, a Hayward resident.

Alia Ansari, 37, had lived in the United States since 1986 and had become a U.S. citizen, family members said. Like many Afghan Americans, Ansari was a refugee from the war against the Soviet Union. She came from Mazar-e Sharif, where her sole sister still lives.

She typically drove to pick up two of her daughters from Glenmoor Elementary School, but left home on foot Thursday because of engine trouble. Witnesses said a man got out of a car, approached her and shot her at point-blank range before returning to the car and speeding away.

The young daughter who was with Ansari was unharmed, Swadener said.

When Ansari was shot, her daughter began crying and later told her family over and over, “A man killed my mother,” said Hassan Ansari.

Maria Garcia, who lives across the street from where the shooting occurred, said, “I didn’t see what happened but I heard the gunfire, and I heard the crying of the child.”

The slaying marks the second time someone in the victim’s family has been shot and killed in Fremont. In January 2002, Afghan community leader Rahim Ansari, 34, of Union City was shot and killed inside his business, Pamir Travel, in Little Kabul.

The suspected gunman in that incident, upset over a spurned romance, also wounded Rahim Ansari’s brother-in-law, Zabiullah Ansari, a second-cousin of Alia Ansari. In an interview Friday, Zabiullah Ansari, 48, expressed hope that the right person had been arrested. But he said, “They don’t know what happened.

“You’re killed in front of your kid — how can people do that? They’re not human beings. This lady was totally innocent. Why did someone shoot her? ”

aliakilled.jpg

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (right) and friends and family of Alia Ansari gather at the Ansari family’s two-bedroom apartment in Fremont. Chronicle photo by Mike Kepka

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/10/21/BAGMTLTGM51.DTL

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One Comment on “Afghan American Mother Shot”

  1. Shaima'a Alex Says:

    Salam: I Just Sat Front of My Computer for Minutes Stareing I Couldn’t Help My Self Not To Cry I’am Shocked & I’am Angry..
    All The Consolation To Her Family…May Allah Reward Them & Enters Her To El Janaa ,She Is a Martyr Insha’a Allah ..
    How Many Crime Should Happen Untill The American Society Understand
    That Violence Against Muslims In The West Will Not Change Any Thing , Will not Solve Any Mean Problems & Will Not Stop Terroerists of Doing What They Doing ….
    Americans Like All The Humens Have The Right Of Defending Their Selves , But Such Crime Have Nothing To Do With Self Defending..
    ( Violence Raise Violence) Old Word But So True..
    Let Us Keep The Faith & The Patience .
    Salam & Thanks My Sister Aisha For Ur Effort


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