Crime Beat

Not a Hate Crime: 2 ABQ Muslims Killed by Fellow Muslim, Police Say

City, state, and federal law enforcement officers announced Tuesday that an Afghani Muslim has been detained in connection to at least two murders of Pakistani Muslims in Albuquerque. A third recent Pakistani victim may be linked, though authorities have not connected the suspect to a fourth Muslim murder in November.

The Albuquerque Police Department’s SWAT team arrested 51-year-old Muhammad Syed of Afghanistan Monday. Shell casings were used to connect Syed to the crime. He was charged in the deaths of Pakistanis Aftab Hussein, killed July 26, 2022, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, killed August 1, 2022.

The murders gained national attention after politicians and the media hyped the “hate crime” narrative despite any evidence that race or religion were motivating factors. Joe Biden issued a statement on the murders, saying “These hateful attacks have no place in America.” New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham tweeted that “hatred has no place here, and we will not stand for it.” CD-1 Rep. Melanie Stansbury said, “Our communities will not tolerate hate in any form.

Albuquerque Police Department Deputy Cmdr. Kyle Hartsock told the media that authorities believe the killings are linked, stating, “there’s one strong commonality in all victims: the race and religion.”

According to The New York Times, the president of the mosque where three of the victims attended was told by “that the suspect was a Sunni Muslim, and may have targeted the victims because he was angry over his daughter marrying a Shiite Muslim.”

Law enforcement officers Tuesday confirmed that the alleged perpetrator is of Afghan descent. The Pakistani victims were known to Syed.

Almost everyone who spoke at the press conference Tuesday, including the mayor, governor, attorney general, and a state representative, among others, heralded the joint operation between city, state, and federal law enforcement officers, to include the FBI and ATF. They detailed the collaboration and resources shared between agencies and congratulated each other for the exhaustive work it took to locate Syed.

APD Chief Harold Medina described the “incredible work” of the multi-agency partnership, stating it “shows how we can accomplish anything we need to.”

“It’s just an example of when the Albuquerque Police Department partners with the New Mexico state police, that we get results.”

–APD Chief Harold Medina

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham heralded the efforts of law enforcement and stated that New Mexicans should expect this type of collaboration “in any context.”

“This is the kind of work, this collaboration, that yields real results. This is law enforcement and all partners at their best. It is what the state and this community both deserve and should expect in any context.”

–Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Aug. 9, 2022

Grisham vowed to continue using “all of the state resources” “until every single member of every single community, particularly the Muslim community, are clear about their safety, wherever they are in this community, wherever they are statewide. And that that sense of community and public safety, that focus, is the focus that we will bring to bear on all issues around the state.”

Grisham called for “clarity of purpose and effective leadership” “to make sure that we improve and create the kind of public safety environment, no matter the threat, that every single family in Albuquerque, and every single person and family in New Mexico deserves.”

For those who are aware of the other 100-plus murders that have devastated families in Albuquerque this year, the promises of the governor should not be taken literally.

There is one factor and one factor only that warranted the multi-agency partnerships that brought Syed to justice, and it is not a factor that “every single person and family in New Mexico” will receive if one of their loved ones is murdered.

The media and politicians wanted to believe these murders were motivated by hate. They weren’t, which is why the next murder won’t receive anywhere near the same attention, either from the media or law enforcement. The perpetrator was Muslim, not White. He was Afghani, not a right-wing militia member. Which is why this story’s moment on the national stage is over.

The Albuquerque Journal editorial board on Tuesday wrote that “It’s encouraging to see a swift and coordinated effort by law enforcement to solve these cases and protect the city’s Muslim community.” Many rightfully disagree. It is actually discouraging that local and state leaders are only willing to employ the full force of their agencies when the victims are Muslim and the perpetrator is assumedly not.

Everyone should be thankful that Syed was captured, but no one who isn’t of this minority community should be comfortable with the way “justice” was administered.

It would encouraging if there was a “swift and coordinated effort by law enforcement” to solve every murder, regardless of the manufactured political narrative surrounding the slayings. It would be encouraging if Michelle Lujan Grisham gave a press conference for every murder victim in New Mexico. It would be encouraging if the governor believed her own words when she says New Mexicans should expect this type of coordinated effort “in any context.”

We don’t, because we understand the game.

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