Egypt's Al-Azhar denounced on Tuesday the murder of an American Muslim girl of Egyptian descent in a suspected hate crime in the US state of Virginia.
In an official statement, Al-Azhar said 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was killed after 22-year-old suspect Darwin Martinez Torres mocked her and her friends as they stopped at a restaurant after attending mosque nearby in the early hours of Sunday.
The statement added that Torres hit the victim several times with a baseball bat, while muttering anti-Islam and anti-Arab slurs.
Torres then kidnapped the victim. Her dead body was found ten kilometers away from the scene.
The world's oldest seat of Sunni Islamic learning warned of a “worrying growth in Islamophobia,” which it said threatens the lives of Muslims in Western countries.
It called for undertaking decisive measures against hate, violence, and extremist crimes to put an end to the phenomenon.
Egypt’s foreign ministry has been monitoring developments in the case through its embassy in Washington DC.
According to the ministry, Hassanen was kidnapped, beaten and killed on Sunday after she and her friends were chased near their mosque in Virginia by a man who was repeating racial slurs.
Fairfax County Police Department said on Monday night that Hassanen's murder was most likely a “road rage incident” and not a hate crime.
In an official statement, police said preliminary investigations revealed that at about 3:40am on Sunday, a group of as many as 15 teenagers was walking and riding bikes on Dranesville Road, where detectives believe Torres came upon the teens while he was driving.
The statement continues: “The investigation reveals that a teenaged boy on a bike began arguing with Torres. Torres then drove his car onto the curb as the group scattered. Witnesses say Torres caught up with them a short time later in a nearby parking lot and got out of his car armed with a baseball bat and began chasing the group.”
The defendant was able to catch Hassanen, beating her with the bat, then kidnapping her in his car. Her corpse was recovered from nearby man-made pond on 18 June.
“There is nothing to indicate at this point that this tragic case was a hate crime. No evidence has been uncovered that shows this murder was motivated by race or religion,” the statement read.
Muslim-American activists, however, believe that the murder was a hate crime, and part of an increasing trend of Islamophobia in US society.
The number of anti-Muslim crimes in the US jumped 57 percent in 2016 to 2,213, up from 1,409 in 2015, the Council on American-Islamic Relations advocacy group said in a report last month.
The group says that anti-Muslim incidents have increased after the election of US President Donald Trump in November.