Civil Liberties

Anti-Iraqi Hate Crime in California? The Murder of Shaima Alawadi


In another violent death with potential political implications, Nina Burleigh wonders in Time why more Americans aren't outraged at the beating death of Iraqi Muslim immigrant Shaima Alawadi in El Cajon, near San Diego:

Forty thousand Iraqis live  in El Cajon, California, where this week, Shaima Al Awadi, a devout Muslim mother of five, died after being beaten inside her home with a tire iron and left next to note reading "Go back to your country, you terrorist." Coming on the heels of the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida, there would seem to be many parallels between the two crimes—the hate speech, the prejudice, the innocence of the victims.  A One Million Hijabs for Shaima Al Awadi page has even been launched on Facebook, but it's doubtful that the movement will really catch on because Iraqis still considered dangerous infiltrators in the eyes of Americans.

Antiwar libertarian Anthony Gregory makes a political point about the crime:

even though the Iraqi people did nothing against the United States, only to see their country destroyed, hundreds of thousands of their people slaughtered, millions displaced in two decades of murderous U.S. wars and sanctions, somehow these people are still seen as the dangerous ones. But of course, if it's morally justifiable to treat people as subhuman by the millions—a principle necessarily implicit in the U.S. warfare state—what's one more dead mother count? This is one kind of private violent crime that the state could easily discourage simply by refraining from its killing sprees abroad; the copycat incidents would surely decline.

The eagle eye of anti-Muslim writer Debbie Schlussel is sure that the note is a phony and that this was an intra-Muslim "honor killing." Why is she so sure of this? She just is. Anyway, Alawadi's dad is a Shia cleric. And for some reason she sees something portentous and mysterious in one of Alawadi's sons comments to The New York Times:

An odd statement eerily hints that Shaima Alawadi's own 15-year-old son, Mohammed, knows this isn't a hate crime:

"There's only three people that know what happened," he said. "God, my mom and the guy who did it."

Schussel also finds it all too convenient that her husband and family just happened not to be home when the murder occurred.

Detroit Free Press notes the FBI has gotten involved in the case.

USA Today notes the local police are not authoritatively calling it a hate crime:

Among the evidence that police have collected is a threatening note that was near Alawadi's body. Her daughter told a television station that it said: "Go back to your country, you terrorist."

El Cajon Police Chief James Redman declined to discuss the contents of the note Monday, though he said that it has led police to regard the killing as a possible hate crime. He said he was confident the case would be solved.

"I want to stress there is other evidence in this case that we are looking at and the possibility this is a hate crime is just one aspect," Redman said.

"We don't have tunnel vision on this case," he said. "We're looking at the big picture."

Redman said he was confident it was an isolated incident but would not say why.

The president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council is also not jumping to conclusions:

Salam Al-Marayati, president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, said it would be irresponsible to jump to conclusions. He spoke with reporters at the mosque after meeting with the police chief and getting assurances from the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security that they were committed to solving the crime.

"We don't know the facts of this case," Al-Marayati said. "We don't know if it's a hate crime. We don't know if it's not a hate crime."

He urged the public to grieve for a family that fled persecution in Iraq and found tragedy in the United States.

The victim and her family left Iraq in the early 1990s after a failed Shiite uprising, living in Saudi Arabian refugee camps before coming to the U.S.