One of the major problems Muslims have had to face around the world, especially since the 9/11 attacks, is that Islam is seen as a violent religion associated with terrorism, even though the vast majority of Muslims do not condone violence, much less carry out violent acts. Nevertheless, in some circles, the term “terrorist” itself has almost become synonymous with “Muslim.” Conversely, there seems to be a reluctance to label as terrorism those times when Muslims are the victims of an act of deep hatred. This is the case with the story of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi-American mother of five who was found beaten in her home in San Diego, California, last Wednesday, March 21st. Alawadi died on Saturday, March 24th.
Alawadi left Iraq with her family in 1993 to escape persecution, immigrating initially to Dearborn, Michigan, and only recently moving to San Diego. Her father is a Shiite cleric in Iraq and both her brother and her husband worked with the United States Army to provide cultural training to deploying soldiers.
After moving to San Diego, Alawadi received a threatening note saying, “This is our country, not yours, you terrorists.” She dismissed it as a prank. When Alawadi’s daughter found her on on March 21st beaten severely in their home, another note was next to her mother saying, “go back to your country, you terrorist.” Both these notes are causing investigators to view this crime as a hate crime. It was clear that Alawadi was Muslim because she wore hijab.
This crime has sent shock waves through the Muslim community in the United States. Some are comparing Alawadi’s murder to that of Trayvon Martin in Florida, saying that both were motivated by racism. Messages are appearing on Twitter saying, “hood or hijab–this needs to stop.” Also, a Facebook page called “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi” was launched to raise awareness about her murder. This murder makes Muslim Americans more fearful of their safety as citizens. Moreover, it raises the question of when a violent act is so heinous that it can be called an act of terror. There is no doubt that, in the Muslim American community, this crime has instilled a feeling of terror and fear, given that Shaima Alawadi was targeted for no reason other than that she was a Muslim.
Have you heard of Shaima Alawadi’s murder? What is your reaction? Should this be referred to as an act of terror or hate crime? Do you think that Shaima’s death can be compared to Travyon’s? Should Muslim Americans be fearful? Please share your comments below.