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My Take: My hijab is my hoodie
Trayvon Martin, left, and Shaima Alawadi, were both killed recently.
April 5th, 2012
01:04 PM ET

My Take: My hijab is my hoodie


Editor’s note: Linda Sarsour is national advocacy director of the National Network for Arab American Communities and director of the Arab American Association of New York. Follow her on Twitter.

By Linda Sarsour, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I’ve been among the millions mourning the killing of Trayvon Martin, but I’m also mourning the fact that another recent killing has gotten little national attention.

Last week, a 32-year old Iraqi Muslim mother named Shaima Alawadi was found brutally beaten with a tire iron in her El Cajon, California, home and died three days later. A note reportedly left beside her said, “Go Back to your country, you terrorist.”

As an Arab-American Muslim mother of three, I instantly thought about myself and my family.

Alawadi's death put a mirror up to my face. I am 32, I wear a headscarf, like Alawadi did, and I live during one of the most hostile moments that the Muslim American community has ever experienced, especially in the decade since 9/11.

Blacks in America continue to face racism on a daily basis, from the workplace to interactions with law enforcement. And yet racism against African-Americans is publicly acknowledged as unacceptable.

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No one in power dares use the N-word publicly, fearing the wrath that will be bestowed upon them.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case for Muslims in America. Bigotry against Muslims is quite acceptable. From media pundits to elected officials to presidential hopefuls, spewing misinformation and hatred about Muslims and Islam has been normalized.

In America, terrorism has become synonymous with Arabs and Muslims. We see that clearly stated in the note left next to Alawadi.

Law enforcement is investigating Alawadi’s case and says it will not rule out the possibility of a hate crime but also called the killing “an isolated incident.”

According to a report released by the FBI in 2011, anti-Muslim hate crimes increased by nearly 50% in 2010. The latest statistics show a jump from 107 anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2009 to 160 in 2010.

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Last year saw the coldblooded killing of two Sikh elders who apparently “looked” Muslim. The year before saw the stabbing of a Muslim cabdriver who told a white passenger he was Muslim.

Isolated incidents? I don’t think so.

Given mosque vandalism and opposition, proposed anti-Sharia laws and congressional hearings on American Islam, the rash of anti-Muslim hate crimes is not so surprising. As appears to be the case with Trayvon Martin, what’s dangerous is when ordinary citizens act on bigotry, born of misinformation and fear of the unknown.

While there has been some effort to connect Martin and Alawadi by focusing on their attire - a hoodie for the African-American teen and a hijab for the young mother - there has been a deafening silence and reluctance to take Alawadi’s case to the forefront of public debate by some in the Muslim community.

Major Muslim organizations and activists have been treading carefully, warning community members not to “jump to conclusions.”

I for one have been disheartened and feel disempowered by this response. As in Martin’s case, there is still an ongoing investigation into Alawadi’s death.

But with 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.

Some have even gone so far as to compare Martin's death to that of Emmett Till.

Why not the same for Alawadi?

Is an Arab Muslim woman drowning in her blood with a note deeming her a terrorist and telling her to go back to her “country” not explicit enough?

Instead of looking at Alawadi’s death in light of the anti-Muslim environment we live in, Muslims allow our internalized oppression to lead us to believe the stereotypes perpetuated against our community.

I have seen tweets and comments from Muslims suggesting the possibility Alawadi’s killing might be an act of domestic violence or, worse, an honor killing. 

In the United States, we need to come to terms with anti-Muslim bigotry, stand up to it and unequivocally deem it unacceptable. An injustice toward any one person or community is an injustice to us all.

I am Trayvon Martin. I am Shaima Alawadi, too.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Linda Sarsour.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Islam • Opinion

soundoff (1,301 Responses)
  1. Ungodly Discipline

    My hoody is a condom.

    April 5, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  2. Mike

    Millions of people shouldn't be mourning the death of Martin. If you weren't there that night, you don't know what happened.

    April 5, 2012 at 7:40 pm |
  3. Alan1618

    This author is another example of a lying, deceiving Muslim.

    The killing has now practically been proven to be an honor killing, or a case of domestic violence. This stupid author is trying to manipulate it took get sympathy for Muslims, instead of working to clean up the mental sickness in her religion and culture.

    Please see
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/04/murder-of-shaima-al-alawadi-touted-as-an-islamophobic-hate-crime-now-revealed-as-likely-honor-killin.html

    Too bad nearly all Muslims can't seem to talk about Islam without lying.

    You, Ms. Sarsour, please go back to the land of your ancestors and do not pollute this country with lies.

    April 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm |
    • Alan1618

      Sorry for the typo - instead of "took" it should have said "to"

      April 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm |
    • Jordan

      You should apologize for you hatful message not your poor grammar.

      By making the insinuation that all Muslims lie, your are perpetuating hate and prejudice. Just because you're not knowledgable about, or don't agree with/ understand Islam doesn't make the entire religion and those who practice it deceitful. Why don't you go back to the land of your ancestors and stop polluting this country with your malicious hate.

      April 5, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • Gordon Friedman

      The author stated that some Muslims claimed it may have been an honor killing made to look like a hate crime. What you posted is just bigotry.

      April 5, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Gordon Friedman

      "You, Ms. Sarsour, please go back to the land of your ancestors and do not pollute this country with lies."

      I could say the same thing about you if you're not Native American. The Muslim religion didn't do anything to you or the United States. Just some radicals with a skewed perspective. Stop stereotyping people, it ruins Democracy. I'd prefer not to resort to Nazi ideology in America. Just stop stereotyping.

      April 5, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • Alan1618

      @Jordan:

      It is easy to prove that in order to be a Muslim, a person has to have some combination of these traits:
      - be ignorant of the religion, or
      - be trapped in the religion due to threats, etc., or
      - be dangerous, or
      - be dishonest.

      No other possibilities are available.

      You said my post was malicious. What was malicious about it?

      Shouldn't the author be working to clean up the filth in her culture and religion, so this murder might have been prevented? Why is it better for her to lie to Americans about her religion?

      She lies about the so-called hate crimes against Muslims. Please see
      http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/03/anti-jewish-attacks-70-of-hate-crimes-anti-muslim-attacks-9-of-hate-crimes--senate-to-hold-hearing.html
      http://www.jihadwatch.org/2011/01/just-released-new-york-2009-report-hate-crimes-against-jews-251-hate-crimes-against-muslims-11.html
      http://www.jihadwatch.org/2010/11/backlash-anti-muslim-hate-crimes-only-eight-percent-of-hate-crimes-far-less-than-those-against-jews.html

      April 5, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Jordan

      Oh my goodness. You are just an absurd idiot. If you can't see how calling an entire group of people deceitful liars is malicious then there is nothing I can do to help you. Why don't you try reading the Koran (if you've even ever opened a book). I can't even comment on your absurd allegations. I'm going to go to sleep now and pray that i wake up in a world without hateful bigots like you.

      April 5, 2012 at 8:59 pm |
    • Alan1618

      @Gordon:

      You claim that the Muslim religion didn't do anything to the U.S., and that it was skewed perspective. You are wrong. Please see all of my comments at

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/ex-cern-physicist-faces-terror-trial-in-france-over-alleged-e-mails-to-al-qaida-contacts/2012/03/29/gIQArUhLiS_allComments.html?ctab=all_&#weighIn

      April 5, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Alan1618

      @Jordan:

      Please see my comments (at washingtonpost.com) at the link I posted in response to Gordon (I don't know how long they will remain online) for an education about Islam and the Koran.

      April 5, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
    • Alan1618

      This shamelessly deceiving woman, Ms. Sarsour, is shamelessly and dishonestly trying to exploit TWO tragedies, the killing of Trayvon and the honor killing of the Muslim woman, to get sympathy for Muslims.

      April 5, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  4. hawaiiduude

    [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX9Tk2TMA6Q&w=640&h=360]

    April 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |
    • tahreer

      this video is beyond the truth of what they do and how they treat us muslims and cristians in palestian..it is truly sad .... and it is not their land or their home and God did not give it to them....sadly they still think its theirs...its our land and it belongs to us!!

      April 5, 2012 at 8:05 pm |
  5. bob

    Yikes. So much hate!

    Here's a thought:

    Extremists kill people, not religion.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • stainned

      The book can not kill anyone, but a Religious extremest can.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Alan1618

      This author is another example of a lying, deceiving Muslim.

      The killing has now practically been proven to be an honor killing, or a case of domestic violence. This stupid author is trying to manipulate it took get sympathy for Muslims, instead of working to clean up the mental sickness in her religion and culture.

      Please see
      http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/04/murder-of-shaima-al-alawadi-touted-as-an-islamophobic-hate-crime-now-revealed-as-likely-honor-killin.html

      Too bad nearly all Muslims can't seem to talk about Islam without lying.

      You, Ms. Sarsour, please go back to the land of your ancestors and do not pollute this country with lies.

      April 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm |
    • tahreer

      you are sooo right unfortunaly some people are to blinded to that!!!!!

      April 5, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • tahreer

      bob you are soo right people are to blinded to see that

      April 5, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
  6. Shades of Grey

    In the case of Martin they already know who the killer is. In the case of this woman the killer is still at large?

    If this is not a hate crime as potrayed by the muslim community then what does that make these muslims? Liars!

    April 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • stainned

      CAIR is the org that really pushed it as so. To many Muslims follow that "Civil Rights" organization and believe every word they write. Just like many Americans, useful idiots they are.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Gordon Friedman

      The Muslim community has already said it was probably an honor killing. We wouldn't know that if it weren't for the Muslim community.

      April 5, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  7. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer is for the weak and pre-20th century hominids.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • Peter

      Prayer is also a waste of valuable time when you could be accomplishing things in our communities with our own two hands.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  8. .

    I wish more Americans educated themselves not from what media tells them, but from original sources – books, not internet. Or at least from the words of well informed and highly educated American professors. Then, perhaps, less people would be just blabbing in the comments on the 9/11 matter, terrible Islamic Laws, etc.
    Unfortunately, probably most of the people who comment on these articles are those who watch and read only news and nothing else and consider themselves well informed.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • stainned

      Well, you can not get the news from a book. It would be nice if people like this writer would stay atop of the story she is writing about so miss-information would stop spreading. How many people will read this story and think American's hate Muslims? When it looks more like a domestic case, not a hate crime,.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • GodPot

      It takes too much work to do your own research and Americans are extremely lazy when it comes to verifying anything if the version they hear from their right or left wing pundit "feels" like it's true, or at least "feels" like it should be true...

      April 5, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • johnp

      My goal here was to bring what I hope will be a little deeper insight to this "Hate" thing that is at the foundation of all of this. Instead I see the same ol insults, and hurtful comments we usually do on these blogs because in reallity everyone holds an inner hostillity towards anyone they don't understand. See in the beginning of the Bible in the story of Cain and Able we see perhaps the very first "hate crimes" committed – perhaps one of the first crimes against fellow human beings. Why did it happen? Because Able's gift to God was found more pleasing than Cain's by God. Most likly it came down to Able giving God his very best, while Cain gave God his leftovers. Yet Cain became so jealous and angry he killed his own brother. All this hate and predjudice stuff that is based on stupid stuff comes from a desease we all carry. It is called "Sin" by many, and called being a "Human being" by the rest..............God gave us a solution to the decease......His name is Jesus.

      April 5, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  9. Mel

    Take a look at the crimes against the Romani people and then talk to me about bigotry. Muslims are more accepted that the Romani are. Do you see ANY press when Romani aer killed? Nope. It's still universally accepted to hate us and call us gypsies (which is like saying the N word).

    April 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • GodPot

      Americans are way to caught up in their own affairs to even know what you are talking about. I bet most read your post and said "What's Romani? Isn't that like a parmesan cheese?"

      April 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  10. stainned

    "While there has been some effort to connect Martin and Alawadi by focusing on their attire – a hoodie for the African-American teen and a hijab for the young mother – there has been a deafening silence and reluctance to take Alawadi’s case to the forefront of public debate by some in the Muslim community."

    CAIR has already removed many of the posts about this "Hate Crime" from their Facebook page. Being it was more likely a family member that did this, she is not longer needed by them to rally the troops.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  11. t-bone

    Must be CNN.
    They are the only media outlet that would provide a venue for this kind of dumb crap.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • hahaha

      Someone was killed because of christian bigots..... this is not cr@p but should be an eye opener for how the minds of the citizens in this country are shrinking.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • stainned

      hahaha – who was killed because of Christian bigots? Shaima Alawadi?

      April 5, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Sam

      Hahaha: actually, she was killed by a Muslim bigot, her husband.

      April 5, 2012 at 8:22 pm |
  12. stainned

    Shaima Alawadi was not the victim of a hate crime, but rather the victim of a abusive, jealous, woman hating husband. Read the headlines, get with the program.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • t-bone

      "abusive, jealous, woman hating husband"
      Isnt that the standard Muslkim mans feelins toward the lesser female species?
      and its all accepted because of the very religion she defends by wearing a stupid headpiece.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • Gordon Friedman

      T-Bone, stop stereotyping. Not all Muslim men are abusive, jealous, or woman hating. It's just a horrible stereotype anti-Muslim people created after reading about such things going on in the Middle East and among Muslim people elsewhere in the world. We have problems here in the United States that involve domestic violence too, but it doesn't mean we're all abusive.

      April 5, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
  13. Christina

    Funny how the writer fails to mentions that Shaima's family is being looked at as possible suspects. She was in the process of divorcing her husband and forcing her daughter into an arranged marriage with a cousin. Hate crime? Honor killing? Hmmmm

    April 5, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are so full of crap and lies. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!"" .

      April 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  15. clamp

    "I wear a headscarf, like Alawadi did": he was not wearing a headscarf, first, and second, not in the way that a hijab is used

    April 5, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  16. kc

    Maxine...Thanks, but .I'm not comparing her plight to mines and have no plans to be Muslim. HOWEVER; I do sympathize with the fact that a lot of good people are being judged by the horrors of a few ignorant ones. This woman is being asked to denounce her belief by " so called" Christians. We (Christians) of all people should not judge...do u know about the crusades and inquisitions? The priest tapes? If u wanted to call to attention the same situation but it was a Christian woman instead....would u want someone to tell u how evil Christians were to them before they acknowledge the horrible murderer of a mother!?! My point is...I'm sorry this woman died and very little has been said about it in the news because of her race....no difference than what goes on in the black community unless people start marching and placing bounties. Stop playing Jesus and blindly judging while making excuses for our own faith. Talk to the human....not the religion

    April 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • cira22

      I wish more people thought like you. Many followers of todays religions are peaceful people, despite the few crazies that take the holy books too literally.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  17. Wild Irish Rose

    Mrs. Sarsour's piece is on the mark. But please remember, that even though we live in the land of the free, only 150 years or so ago that the Mormons were being chased and burned out across the country for their beliefs, that Catholics were not welcome and less than 100 years ago women in this country couldn't vote in Federal elections! I grew up in a small midwestern town where the Catholics and the Protestants lived on opposite ends of the town. Heck, even the Catholics divided themselved into Germans and Irish – and they were of the same skin color and religion! I am at a loss to describe the sadness i feel when people have to loose their lives like this. Things will change, pray for the better, it's just going to take time, patience and compassion for our fellow human beings. We are all human and have the same needs in life. The true evil in the world is the division among us. Pray to whomever you answer to that all those who are lost in this mess find peace. Namaste y'all.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
    • sweetpeasmom

      This crime has nothing to do with how people of various religions treat each other. This crime was committed by a husband and daughter who murdered their wife and mother and then staged a phony terrorist plot to implicate innocent Americans. Get your facts straight. This violent crime was commmitted against a woman and it is that which you should be taking a stand against.

      The husband and daughter accompanied the body back to Iraq for burial and they likely won't return to face the American justice system for their crime. Let's see now...... a 17-year-old Iraqi girl raised in American for the last 8 or so years and now finds herself back in Iraq at the mercy of her father's intolerant views of women's rights....let's see how long she lives there. She will suffer a fate far worse than that of her mother. God help her (I know, she's Muslim, but I honestly don't see Allah helping her out here.) Whe we hear of her brutal murder by her father in Iraq, will you be speaking up then?

      April 5, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  18. magdalenemantra

    Reblogged this on socialjusticevoice.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • SewWatt

      .

      April 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  19. NorCalMojo

    I see the similarities.

    Both were tragedies.

    Both tragedies stemmed from internal troubles within their communities, and both were accompanied by false claims of racism.

    In Trayvon's case, the problem was rooted in the acceptance of violence in the gangsta subcultures. That's the source of both the profiling and the escalation of the incidicent. In Alawadi's case, it's rooted in the misogyny of fundamental Islam.

    The final similarity is once the cries of racism/discrimination are disproven, both groups will pretend it never happened and the root causes won't be addressed.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
  20. tysktysk

    I applaud you for standing up for this woman's death. I'm sorry for the hatred being poured in your direction,especially from these comments. I think most are missing the main point that hate is hate, is wrong in all its forms, and should be spoken against. Almost every religion out there has violence somewhere in its history, or continual violence, Christianity included. Different people bring different views to each, some finding a religion a perfect breeding ground to spread a message of hatred. That is wrong.

    This poor woman was brutally murdered because of her religion and appearance. Simply because she practices Islam does not make her derserving of death.

    April 5, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • RG

      Well said, tysktysk.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • sam

      Um...it turns out her own family killed her and tried to blame it on racists. Oops.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Lila

      If you are talking about Alawadi, there is no proof she was brutally murdered because of her religion and appearance. It looks like more likely like a family tragedy which can happen and does happen in any religion.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • helpinghand

      Agree 100% tysktysk, couldn't have said it better. And for the other people that are saying her family abused her don't know what they are talking about. It obviously wasn't a family member because of the note, and if you are to ignorant to believe that then news flash, you need a wakeup call.

      God have ease on both those who died and all people who are oppressed.
      …Ameen

      April 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • Blee

      Obviously it wasn't a family member because of the note? That has to be one of the most idiotic comments. First of all, anyone can leave a note, Second, a real murderer wouldn't leave one. For what? That's not logical. Sorry some people aren't smart enough to see that. Sadly, statistics backs the the increasing evidence, it was probably a family member.

      April 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.