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Muslim woman from Michigan beaten to death in California home

Tuesday March 27, 2012 02:03:16 PM, IINA

San Diego (California, USA): An Iraqi-American woman who used to live in Dearborn was found beaten to death at her home near San Diego in what might possibly be a hate crime.

A note calling her a terrorist and saying she should go back to her country was left next to her body, according to friends and family members.

According to a report by Detroit Free Press, the death on Saturday of Shaima Alawadi, 32, after three days in the hospital has prompted an intense outpouring of anxiety and outrage from some, especially among Arab-Americans and on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. Some drew comparisons with the killing of Trayvon Martin, an African-American teen shot dead last month in Florida.

“I’m really disturbed,” said Suehaila Amen, president of the Lebanese-American Heritage Club in Dearborn. “It’s quite frightening.”

The body of Alawadi, a U.S. citizen, is currently being prepared to be flown to Iraq for her funeral, said Imam Husham Al-Husainy, of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn. Her father, Sayed Nabeel Alawadi, is a Shia cleric in Iraq, whose government will pay for shipping expenses of the body, he said.

“Everybody is outraged,” Al-Husainy told the Free Press. “This is too evil, too criminal.”

Police told the San Diego Union-Tribune they are investigating her death in El Cajon, near San Diego, as a homicide.

“A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that,” Lt. Mark Coit of El Cajon police told the Union-Tribune. “We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else.”

Alawadi, a mother of five born in Iraq, was found by her 17-year-old daughter on Wednesday.

“I found her on the floor…in her own blood with a letter next to hear head saying go back to your country you terrorist,” Fatima Al Himidi, told 10News, a TV station serving the San Diego area.

About a week ago, the woman’s family had received a separate, similar note that read: “You’re a terrorist. You should move back to your country,” Hayder Al-Zayadi, a friend of the family, told the Free Press.

“Some people are not educated,” Al-Zayadi said.

Alawadi was born in Iraq and moved to the U.S. in 1993 along with her family, part of a wave of Shia Muslim refugees who fled to metro Detroit after former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991. After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school, and was a housewife raising five kids at the time of her death, according to Al-Zayadi. El Cajon has a growing Iraqi-American population.

“She’s such a respectful person,” he said. “When she was in the hospital (after the beating), Christian, Muslim, Jewish, all nationalities, were there.”

Her brothers worked as cultural advisers for the U.S. Army to help train soldiers who were deployed to the Middle East, he said.

Shaima wore a hijab, an Islamic headscarf. When she received the earlier threatening note, she ignored it, assuming it was a harmless joke, her daughter said.

“A week ago they left a letter saying this is our country not yours you terrorist, and so my mom ignored that thinking it was just kids playing a prank,” she told the TV station. “But the day they hit her, they left another note again, and it said the same thing.”

Last night in Arab-American communities, “everybody was talking about” the death of Alawadi, Amen said.

At 33, Amen is roughly the same age as Alawadi and also wears a hijab.

“This is something that’s really scary,” Amen said. “For a woman like myself who wears a hijab, you’re an open target. You’re always looking over your shoulder because of how you’re dressed and because someone might have skewed perceptions of the community.”

On social media sites, people expressed concern she was killed because of her ethnicity and religion. Some compared her to Martin, the African-American teenager killed in Florida who was wearing a hoodie. They say that both were minorities killed, one for a hoodie, the other for a hijab.

A Facebook page was created Saturday called: “One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi.” Hijabis is a term sometimes used by Muslims for women who wear hijabs.

The Facebook page reads: “She could be your daughter, your sister, your friend. We cannot let the children in this country grow up in a world so full of hatred that a woman wearing a head scarf is afraid for her life, that a black kid wearing a hoodie is afraid for his life… We are all Shaima. We need a Million Hijab March.”

On the Facebook page, the words “this oufit doesn’t say ‘kill me’ on the label” is on a photo of a woman wearing a hijab.

Shaima’s death drew a response from a range of people, including Rabbi Avraham Berkowitz, with the Orthodox Jewish group Chabad.

He wrote on Twitter this morning: “Outrageous that this murder happened in the USA! May Shaima Alawadis murderer be found & brought to justice.”

Paul Rieckhoff, the CEO of Iraq & Afghan Vets of America, wrote on Twitter: “As an Iraq vet, and as an American, I am beyond outraged by Shaima’s death. This could have been so many of my friends.”

Amen noted that the family of the woman had helped the U.S. Army.

“How much more American can you get than to serve the country with pride and honor,” Amen said.

“Shaima Al-Awadi’s murder, like Trayvon Martin’s, was a senseless murder based upon racial animus,” said Dawud Walid, an African-American Muslim leader from Detroit who is executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “We must come together as a society to have frank discussions about the toxic rhetorical environment which we currently live in that leads to such wanton violence.”

The daughter of the mother told the TV station in San Diego:”She’s such an innocent woman. Why? Why did you do that?…We’re not the terrorist. You are.”

The community in the San Diego area will have three days of services for her at the Imam Ali Foundation Center, said Al-Zayadi.






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