The note said: “Go back to your country. You’re a terrorist.” There had been another note earlier in the month, but it had been discarded. Shaima Alawadi dismissed it as a juvenile prank. The beating of Shaima Alawadi (with a tire iron) occurred at her home in El Cajon, California on Wednesday, March 21st, probably early in the morning. Shaima died last Saturday, March 24th, from head wounds. Was it a hate crime?
The El Cajon police are not ready to declare it as a hate crime quite yet. El Cajon police lieutenant Mark Coit has characterized the crime as an isolated incident and has said the police have some other evidence from the crime scene, which he is not at liberty to disclose. Does this secret evidence negate the theory that the killing of Shaima Alawadi was motivated by a hatred for her ethnicity or religion?
Why would some evidence, such as the incriminating notes, be made public, while other evidence is coveted by the police? Such is one mystery in this highly charged and sensitive investigation. A good amount of beneficial factual information is coming out in the news about the immigration of Iraqis to the U.S., post Gulf War and the War in Iraq. Many uprooted Iraqis came to the U.S. and ended up living in El Cajon, which is 15 miles northwest of San Diego and is a home for 40, 000 Iraqis.
Shaima Alawadi, 32, (and her family) is one of these immigrants who just recently came to El Cajon from Detroit, which has the largest Iraqi community in the U.S.. In order to understand this case better, one has to step back in time to the Gulf War, review the 9/11 terrorist attacks once again, then review the invasion of Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) by the U.S. on March 20, 2003. Al Himidi (Shaima’s husband) and Alawadi fled Iraq in 1993; Alawadi’s uncle had been hung by Saddam Hussain’s troops, after a Shiite uprising was crushed.
Shaima was a Shiite Muslim and frequently wore a hijab. You might recall, Saddam Hussein, while he was the dictator of Iraq, was in the Suni minority faction, and had to keep the Shiite majority in check. Meanwhile, the majority of Iraqis in El Cajon are Christians, while Shiite Muslims would be in the minority of this sequestered Arab community in California.
These recent events of history involving the Middle East must be revisited, as painful as it is to do so. The reason for doing this is that we suspect some of these conflicts involving both politics and ethnicity were imported after these several wars; they didn’t go away simply because these Iraqi people entered the confines of a freer U.S. We have prejudices too, that don’t go away easily, even though these wars are diminishing in the horizons of fleeing time.
I will link you to a very good editorial piece written for Time Magazine by Nina Burleigh. One point Nina makes is a most appropriate observation, that I will parrot at this time. While the incident involving the troubling death of Trayvon Martin is grabbing up all of the attention of the media and the American people, the heinous bludgeoning death of Shaima Alawadi goes by unnoticed. We even see parallels drawn between the wearing of a hijab by Shaima, and the wearing of a hoodie by Trayvon. Both have been known to elicit racial profiling. The difference, however, is that the hoodie profiling is getting recognition, while the wearing of the hijab is still looked upon suspiciously.