Remember Shaima Alawadi? Shortly after the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida last March, the 32-year-old mother of five, an immigrant from Iraq in the 1990s, was found murdered. There was a note next to her bludgeoned body that read, “Go back to your country, you terrorist.” With liberal America already in paroxysms over the alleged racial motivations behind Martin’s shooting by a “white Hispanic” neighborhood-watch volunteer, Alawadi’s death added fuel to the fire of those insisting that America is a hotbed of violent racism. A meme was born: “Hijabs and hoodies,” a reference to the two victims’ respective attire, became shorthand for those demanding an end to Islamophobia and racism. Weekly Standard contributor Michael Moynihan’s column in Tablet magazine last week reminded us of the degree to which people came unglued over the alleged motive behind Alawadi’s murder:
The story provoked a torrent of outrage: It was, the New York Times reported, the “most-discussed topic worldwide” on Twitter. . . . While the local police urged media restraint, the Alawadi family’s lawyer speculated that because they lived in El Cajon, Calif., a suburb of the “military town” of San Diego, it was possible that the murder was committed by an Islamophobic veteran. The blogger Ferrari Sheppard told his 16,000 Twitter followers, “All politicians who sold that false Iraq war, slaughter has [sic] Shaima Alawad’s [sic] blood on their hands.” Writing on CNN’s religion blog, Linda Sarsour, the director of the Arab American Association of New York, wondered why more people weren’t jumping to conclusions: “[W]ith only initial evidence—a dead black teenager, an iced tea, a pack of Skittles, a neighborhood watchman—many of us have presumed the Martin killing is an unfortunate result of racism in America. . . . Why not the same for Alawadi?”
There are many good reasons that we don’t leap to assume motives when someone is killed. As it happens, though it registered as barely a blip in national news coverage, police arrested Alawadi’s husband for her murder last week, and he’s being held without bail. Detectives found documents in Alawadi’s car indicating that she wanted a divorce. An affidavit also revealed Alawadi’s 17-year-old daughter was distraught and rebelling against an arranged marriage to her cousin in Iraq.
Further, The Scrapbook noticed this interesting detail in the tenth paragraph of a CBS News report on the charges against Alawadi’s husband: “Alhimidi’s arrest last week occurred only days after the sentencing of an Iraqi mother who was charged in Phoenix with beating her daughter because she refused to go along with an arranged marriage.” According to other reports, 19-year-old Aiya Altameemi was secured to her bed with a rope and a padlock overnight, and her mouth was taped shut. She was beaten with a shoe so severely she had to go to the hospital, burned on her face and chest with a hot spoon, and her father cut a one-and-a-half-inch wound on her neck. Her mother and father were given two years’ probation.
The beating of Altameemi and the murder of Alawadi make a compelling argument that those who leapt to conclusions about Alawadi’s death were half-right: There should be outrage over how Muslim women are treated in this country. But since the real problem of violence against Muslim women is unrelated to racism or Islamophobia, don’t expect it to become a topic of national discussion anytime soon.