12 Jul 2024

New Mexico Muslim killings highlight Shia discrimination

New Mexico Muslim killings highlight Shia discrimination


Outside of writing, Zarina loves art. Mastering in fine art, Zarina has always dreamed to create her own comic. She’s keen on contributing to the pool of representation for south Asians and hopes to create her own Pakistani female superhero one day.

New Mexico Muslim killings highlight Shia discrimination

Fear of attacks have rippled through the Muslim community after four Muslim men were shot in Albuquerque, N.M. The attacks took place over the course of 2 weeks.

Police have now identified a suspect for all four killings and formally charged him with two of the victim’s deaths after. The suspect’s identity has come as a shock to the Muslim community as 51 Muhammad Syed was arrested. Reports allege he is a Sunni Muslim.

Despite him claiming innocence, police have determined there is ample evidence against him, and 200 police tips ultimately led the police to Syed [i].

Three out of four men were Shia, and the fourth man was allegedly killed for ‘having a Shia-sounding surname’. Whilst motives are still being explored, it’s believed by many for interpersonal reasons.

Aneela Abad, general secretary at the Islamic centre, said the two Muslim communities in New Mexico enjoy warm ties.

“Our Shiite community has always been there for us and we, Sunnis, have always been there for them,” she said.

According to Sikander Rahman, a Shia Muslim living in New York, he has been the victim of anti-Shia discrimination. He stated he’s been called a kafir (non believer) and had his turbah, a small clay rock in which Shia Muslims touch their forehead in sujood, kicked aside as he was praying.

Despite being a victim of this discrimination, he was shocked at the severity of the attacks.

“I’ve only heard of minor stuff. Like, different forms of hate crimes in the country. But never on this level.”

Altaf Hussain cries over the grave of his brother Aftab Hussein at Fairview Memorial Park in Albuquerque, N.M., on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. A funeral service was held for Aftab Hussein, 41, and Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, at the Islamic Center of New Mexico on Friday. (Chancey Bush/The Albuquerque Journal via AP)

Sunni and Shia tensions

Muslims are sadly no stranger to targeted attacks, however, this case has sent shockwaves across the world due to the primary suspect being of Muslim faith.

As Muslims, our faith teaches us to be kind, patient, and respect one another, regardless of whichever sect we follow. However, ego, pride and power have taken precident over our basic Islamic teachings, leading to a divide within our own community.

The Shia community are subject to internal discrimination & judgement as Sunni Islam has become the mainstream. We see more and more people openly condemning them and sharing words of hatred.


Of course, this does not speak for all of the Muslim community. There are many Muslims practising different sects of Islam that exist in peace with one another. However, just because the sectarian divide may not be visible to us in our pockets of community, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

We should all work towards creating better relations between our brothers and sisters. It’s time we all take responsibility and embody the change we want to see, both outside our communities and within them.

إِنَّا ِلِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ. Our condolences to the victims, Aftab Hussein, 41, Muhammad Afzaal Hussain, 27, Naeem Hussain, 25, and Mohammad Ahmadi.

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