Kaliph Anaz looks into the murder of Saudi Arabian student in Essex.
“This isn’t the first attack on a Muslim student and certainly is not the last on a member of the Muslim community in the UK” said Omar Ali, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies
The Muslim Council of Britain said: With the current hostile atmosphere against Muslims in certain parts of our national conversation, there is a heightened fear that this murder may have been motivated by anti-Muslim hatred.
Saudi Arabian national Nahid Almanea was found stabbed to death on a footpath off Avon Way in Colchester, Essex. The 31-year-old had been in the UK for less than a year and was studying at the University of Essex.
Essex Police is investigating whether she was targeted because of her religion.
Ms Almanea, described by her university as a “very intelligent” student, was wearing a Muslim abaya robe and a multi-coloured hijab headscarf when she was brutally attacked. There are other possible motives, police say, but they are calling for calm, saying they are aware threats of revenge attacks have been made on social media and are investigating them.
The Muslim Council of Britain, country’s largest Islamic forum with over 500 affiliated organisations, said they are dismayed at murder of a woman who wore Muslim dress.
In a statement they said: The Muslim Council of Britain is dismayed to learn that a Muslim woman has been stabbed to death in the early hours of Tuesday morning on the outskirts of Colchester.
Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “It is absolutely shocking to hear of this horrific murder. We send our heartfelt condolences to her family and loved ones.”
“With the current hostile atmosphere against Muslims in certain parts of our national conversation, there is a heightened fear that this murder may have been motivated by anti-Muslim hatred. This was underscored by a recent report which suggested that Muslim women are repeated victims of anti-Muslim hate. While this fear is understandable, we must allow the police investigation to run its course. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victim’s family at this difficult time”.
Nick Alston, Essex Police and Crime Commissioner, warned connecting the murder of Ms Almanea with her religion risked “stirring up tensions” and was “irresponsible.”
“Jumping to those conclusions is dangerous and wrong,” he said. “She was a guest in our country. I can’t think of anything worse than having a family member killed overseas.”
Ms Almanea had been studying an English language course as part of her studies for a life sciences PhD. Officers said she lived with her brother and would normally walk to university with him. Because he had earlier lectures that day, she was walking alone.
Police said the fact she was stabbed multiple times bore “obvious similarities” with the murder of James Attfield, a vulnerable man with brain damage, who died after being stabbed more than 100 times in a park in Colchester in March. But they remain separate investigations, police said.
Omar Ali, president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, paid tribute to the victim.
“My heart sank after hearing the traumatising news an innocent life had been brutally snatched away,” he said.
“This is the saddest piece of information I have received in all my years of activism in the student sector.”
He added: “This isn’t the first attack on a Muslim student and certainly is not the last on a member of the Muslim community in the UK.”
The Saudi Arabian embassy in London also confirmed the victim had a brother in Britain, adding that they had contacted him to offer assistance.
“Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Ambassador to the UK, expressed in a telephone call to the brother of the deceased his sincerest condolences to her family,” a spokesman said. “He affirmed the embassy’s speed in taking all the procedures for the transfer of the body of the deceased to the Kingdom, highlighting in this regard the embassy will not stop until reaching the aspects of this case.”
Nahid was found with 16 stab wounds, two of which proved fatal. Police have said her distinctive clothing is a key line of inquiry and contributed to the possibility that the “frenzied” attack was religiously motivated.
The University of Essex said she was a “very hard-working and conscientious” student and was due to finish her studies in August.
Richard Barnard, head of the University’s International Academy, said: “Nahid was a student on the Essex English Language Programme, which develops students’ English language skills. Nahid joined this programme and was a very hard-working and conscientious student, who was making excellent progress.
“She was a quiet, considerate and well-respected member of the programme and had ambitions to move on to further academic study. “She will be greatly missed by her teachers and her fellow students.”
Ms Almanea is reported to have been planning to undertake a PhD in life sciences and had co-authored a number of academic papers since 2010.
Police have confirmed that she left her home in Woodrow Way at 10am and was found with fatal stab wounds on nearby Salary Brook Trail 40 minutes later.
Meanwhile, a British extremist fighting in Iraq has used the murder to encourage followers in the UK to commit revenge attacks on non-Muslims. The British member of Isis, the fanatical Islamic force leading an insurgency in Iraq, said Muslims should “take up a knife and kill as they did in Colchester”.
Abu Rashash Britani, who has previously said he would bring Isis’ brand of bloody attacks to Britain, tweeted: “These kuffar [non-Muslims] getting out of hand, dare they touch a #Muslimah.
“I call upon any brother to take up a knife and kill as they did #colchester.”
Comparing Ms Almanea’s death to the to murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Greenwich last year, he added: “#colchester attack is cowardly act. At least when our noble brothers, killers of #leerigby did so they killed a soldier not a civilian.
“I pray a revenge attack takes place in #uk against those enemies of #Islam n #Muslims.”