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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. Eddie

    The believers are ineedd brothers [in Isle2mic religion]. (Al-Hujuraat: 10)And He The Most Mighty, The Most Majestic said: The believers, men and women, are Auliye2' (helpers, supporters, friends, protectors) of oadne another… (At-Tawba : 71)And The Prophet (sallahAllaahu alayhi wasallam) said : The believer to another believer is like the structure [like a wall] ; each part strengthens the other,' and then he co-enjoined his fingers. (Agreed upon)And he (may Allaah's blessings and good mention be upon him) also said: The example of the believers in their relationship, and their love, and their having mercy upon each other ; is like the example of oadne body part to the rest of the body; if oadne part is affected then the whole body complains of fever and pain. (Agreed upon)And he (may Allaah's blessings and good mention be upon him) also said: The Muslim is the brother of another Muslim; he does not oppress him, nor does he deceive him, nor does he give him up to the enemy, nor does he look down oadn him. (Narrated by Muslim)And help comprises of many things –according to the ability, and depending oadn the situations – whether it is intellectually or physical [things], or whether it is from the general Muslims through wealth, and food, and medicine, and clothing, and other things. Or whether it is from the Islamic Arab nations through making it easy and possible that the aid reaches them, and by taking a sincere position in regards to their [the Palestinian Muslims] matter, and by supporting their case in the gatherings, and seminars, and the international conferences: And all of these are from the ways of co-operation upon good and piety – which is something that is ordered- in the statement of The Exalted : Help you oadne another in virtue, righteousness and piety… (Al-Maaida : 2)And also from those ways is: to direct sincere advice to them [the Muslims in Palestine], and to direct them to that which is of good and of benefit to them. And from the greatest of those is to make du'aa for them -at all times – so that their tribulation is lifted, and their affliction is raised, and that their situation is rectified, and that their statements and actions become good.Upon this, we also advise our Muslim brethren in Palestine to have fear of Allaah – The Exalted- and to return to Him, just as we advise them to be united; upon the truth, and to leave off divisions and splitting up, and not to give a chance to the enemy – who has taken advantage of it – and will continue to use it in enmity and oppression.And we also encourage and emphasize our brethren to take the causes which will lead to lifting the oppression directed at their land – while having complete sincerity to Allaah The Exalted – in [those and all other] actions, and to seek His pleasure, and to seek His assistance – through righteous actions, and prayers, and consulting the scholars and people of wisdom; in all their matters – ineedd that is a way of being facilitated [to that which is good] and establishment.Just as we call oadn to the intellectuals in the world and the international meetings; to have an open look at this catastrophe – with a look of insight, intellect, and equality – so that the Palestinian community can be given its rights. And so that the oppression be lifted from it: such that they live in a honourable life. And at the same time we thank all -the nations and individuals- who have initiated in aiding and helping them.We ask Allaah by His Beautiful Names and His Lofty Attributes; that He lifts the despair oadn this Ummah, and that He strengthens its religion, and to raise its statement, and to aid His allies, and to disgrace His enemies -and to return back their plots against themselves- and to save the Muslims from their evil, Indeed He is the Patron, and the oadne who is Most Able of all that. And may His blessings and good mention be upon our Prophet Muhammad, and also his family and his companions and those who follow them upon good; upto the Last Day.The grand mufti of Saudi Arabia,President of the Council of Senior Scholars,Shaykh Abdul-'Azeez Ibn Abdullaah Aal ash-Shaykh.Member of Permanent Committee for Islaamic Research and VerdictsSource : The Madeenah Journalالخميس, 1 يناير 2009واس الرياضحثت اللجنة الدائمة للبحوث العلمية والإفتاء بالمملكة المسلمين الوقوف مع إخوانهم الفلسطينيين والتعاون معهم ونصرتهم ومساعدتهم والاجتهاد في رفع الظلم عنهم بما يمكن من الأسباب والوسائل تحقيقاً لإخوة الإسلام ورابطة الإيمان، معتبرة أن مايجري في غزة إجرام وظلم في حق الشعب الفلسطيني.وأوضحت اللجنة أن النصرة شاملة لأمور عديدة حسب الاستطاعة ومراعاة الأحوال سواء كانت مادية أو معنوية ، وسواء كانت من عموم المسلمين بالمال والغذاء والدواء والكساء وغيرها، أو من جهة الدول العربية والإسلامية بتسهيل وصول المساعدات لهم وصدق المواقف تجاههم ونصرة قضاياهم في المحافل والجمعيات والمؤتمرات الدولية والشعبية.ودعت اللجنة عقلاء العالم والمجتمع الدولي للنظر في الكارثة بعين العقل والإنصاف لإعطاء الشعب الفلسطيني حقوقهجاء ذلك في بيان صدر عن اللجنة حول ما يجري في قطاع غزة من قتل وحصار وتشريد فيما يلي نصه:الحمد لله رب العالمين ، والصلاة والسلام على أشرف الأنبياء والمرسلين نبينا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه ، ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين. وبعد:فإن اللجنة الدائمة للبحوث العلمية والإفتاء في المملكة العربية السعودية تابعت بكل أسى وحزن وألم ما جرى ويجري على إخواننا المسلمين في فلسطين وفي قطاع غزة على الخصوص من عدوان وقتل للأطفال والنساء والشيوخ وانتهاك للحرمات وتدمير للمنازل والمنشآت وترويع للآمنين ، ولا شك أن ذلك إجرام وظلم في حق الشعب الفلسطيني.وهذا الحدث الأليم يوجب على المسلمين الوقوف مع إخوانهم الفلسطينيين والتعاون معهم ونصرتهم ومساعدتهم والاجتهاد في رفع الظلم عنهم بما يمكن من الأسباب والوسائل تحقيقاً لاخوة الإسلام ورابطة الإيمان ، قال الله تعالى :” إنما المؤمنون إخوة” (الحجرات 10) وقال عز وجل :” والمؤمنون والمؤمنات بعضهم أولياء بعض” (التوبة 71) وقال النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم :” المؤمن للمؤمن كالبنيان يشد بعضه بعضاً وشبك بين أصابعه “ متفق عليه، وقال أيضاً عليه الصلاة والسلام :”مثل المؤمنين في توادهم وتراحمهم وتعاطفهم مثل الجسد الواحد إذا اشتكى منه عضو تداعى له سائر الجسد بالحمى والسهر “(متفق عليه) وقال عليه الصلاة والسلام: “ المسلم أخو المسلم لا يظلمه ولا يخذله ولا يسلمه ولا يحقره” رواه مسلم.والنصرة شاملة لأمور عديدة حسب الاستطاعة ومراعاة الأحوال سواء كانت مادية أو معنوية ، وسواء كانت من عموم المسلمين بالمال والغذاء والدواء والكساء وغيرها، أو من جهة الدول العربية والإسلامية بتسهيل وصول المساعدات لهم وصدق المواقف تجاههم ونصرة قضاياهم في المحافل والجمعيات والمؤتمرات الدولية والشعبية ، وكل ذلك من التعاون على البر والتقوى المأمور به في قوله سبحانه وتعالى : “ وتعاونوا على البر والتقوى “ (المائدة 2).ومن ذلك أيضاً بذل النصيحة لهم ودلالتهم على ما فيه خيرهم وصلاحهم ، ومن أعظم ذلك أيضاً الدعاء لهم في جميع الأوقات برفع محنتهم وكشف شدتهم وصلاح أحوالهم وسداد أعمالهم وأقوالهم. هذا وإننا نوصي إخواننا المسلمين في فلسطين بتقوى الله تعالى والرجوع إليه سبحانه ، كما نوصيهم بالوحدة على الحق وترك الفرقة والتنازع وتفويت الفرصة على العدو التي استغلها وسيستغلها بمزيد من الاعتداء والتوهين.ونحث إخواننا على فعل الأسباب لرفع العدوان على أرضهم مع الإخلاص في الأعمال لله تعالى وابتغاء مرضاته والاستعانة بالصبر والصلاة ومشاورة أهل العلم والعقل والحكمة في جميع أمورهم ، فإن ذلك أمارة على التوفيق والتسديد.كما أننا ندعو عقلاء العالم والمجتمع الدولي بعامة للنظر في هذه الكارثة بعين العقل والإنصاف لإعطاء الشعب الفلسطيني حقوقه ، ورفع الظلم عنه حتى يعيش حياة كريمة، وفي الوقت نفسه نشكر كل من أسهم في نصرتهم ومساعدتهم من الدول والأفراد.نسأل الله بأسمائه الحسنى وصفاته العلا أن يكشف الغمة عن هذه الأمة ، وأن يعز دينه ، ويعلي كلمته وأن ينصر أولياءه ، وأن يخذل أعداءه ، وأن يجعل كيدهم في نحورهم ، وأن يكفي المسلمين شرهم ، إنه ولي ذلك والقادر عليه. وصلى الله وسلم على نبيا محمد وعلى آله وصحبه ومن تبعهم بإحسان إلى يوم الدين.سماحة المفتي العام للمملكة العربية السعوديةرئيس هيئة كبار العلماءالشيخ عبدالعزيز بن عبدالله بن محمد آل الشيخوأعضاء اللجنة الدائمة للبحوث العلمية والإفتاء

    July 29, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • 7veils

      This has been written from someone whose religion was fractured at the death of their "prophet". Where today Shia, Sunni and others are gladly spilling each others blood because they were born and raised on opposite sides of an imaginary theocratic line. Peace be unto them...yeah, right.

      September 20, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
  2. Habib Hijab

    Today's specials at habibs mini mart:
    Buy one hijab get one free.
    free coffee stirrer stick with any purchase.
    free hotdog with kotex purchase.

    July 11, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
  3. chaim

    hey Peace and blessings
    Please Donate for the organization for Jews around the world :

    https://jewishcypruscom.clhosting.org/templates/articlecco_cdo/aid/145247/jewish/Donate-Now/lang/en

    July 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  4. Hello

    The muslim woman who was beaten to death was in the process of getting a divorce. Her death was an sharia honor ki11!ing.

    It was a hate crime committed by her husband or other family member. . not a hate crime because she was a muslim.

    She dared to leave her husband... to be free of his control.. therefore according to the muslim myth she deserved to die.

    The only hate part of this crime was that her soon to be ex husband... was insulted that she dare to be free of him and his control...
    Muslim men need to understand when in AMERICA... women have RIGHTS.... by LAW.. mythology means nothing..

    May 27, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  5. kaos bola

    hello there and thank you in your info ? I have definitely picked up anything new from proper here. I did however expertise a few technical issues the usage of this site, since I experienced to reload the site many instances previous to I may just get it to load properly. I had been wondering in case your hosting is OK? Not that I am complaining, but slow loading cases times will sometimes affect your placement in google and could harm your high-quality score if advertising and marketing with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my email and could look out for much more of your respective intriguing content. Make sure you update this once more very soon..

    May 9, 2012 at 6:35 pm |
  6. Chin Lee

    This is America not muslimville!!

    May 3, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  7. Amaricano

    Go back to your country............No place for boom boom anymore.........

    April 29, 2012 at 11:58 am |
  8. tallulah13

    Linda dear do not worry about all the negative posts hear. You reminds me of my grand daughter when I first came here I too feels like you. Fret not dear daughter take courage and read the koran.Lady liberty will be on our side. allah akbar!

    April 28, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
  9. Julio Martinez Hernandez Cortez Gomez

    I am proud to be an American. Muslim people need to go back to Muslimville.

    April 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • Amanda

      Because being Muslim makes them not be American? Plenty of Muslims are born in this country. If I use your logic then I should, judging by your name, say go back to Mexico.

      April 26, 2012 at 6:23 pm |
    • tallulah13

      You go back. this american land is our muslim land.Read the consti.tution

      April 28, 2012 at 7:32 pm |
  10. the new muneef

    even though the terrorists killed a lot of people during 9/11, at least they didn't disrespect the dead by urinating on the corpses

    April 24, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • What da who?

      Let's think about that shall we? We'll resort to your low level of intelligence.
      Shoot someone and kill them.
      or
      pee on a dead person.
      which one is worse.
      you are an idiot!

      April 26, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Muneef God be with you dear child. We are all in this together let us not forget to read the Koran and please keep posting about our religion and its greatness. The world needs to hear it from us.

      April 28, 2012 at 7:36 pm |
  11. glades2

    Just before the end of our early Mass yesterday morning, a young man in his early to mid 20s arrived inside our Catholic Church wearing a hoodie and sat in the then-empty balcony, but there is a time and place for everything, and when at church – any church – a person must check their anger and hatred at the door, since it is a sign of respect for God that a man remove his hat on entering a church. There is a time to make a statement – and a time not to – and what I happened to witness yesterday was NOT the time nor place...

    April 23, 2012 at 11:10 am |
  12. beowolf

    The comments here come as no surprise. I expected no better from Americans (although they may not all be) and I found what I expected.

    If any friends or family of Shaima Alawadi read this, please know that there is atleast one American who is sincerly sorry for your loss. I have stood by too often and allowed my fellow Americans to revel in their hate and ignorance and not stood up for the ideals of freedom and justice so often falsely touted in this country of my birth.

    April 22, 2012 at 6:45 pm |
    • oh yes

      boo hoo. go suck on a shoe

      April 22, 2012 at 7:34 pm |
    • Ellie

      Finally someone that makes sense! There needs to be more people that think like that on this blog, Beowolf.

      May 1, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  13. Benevolence is All

    If a cow worshipped Ronald McDonald, it would be labeled crazy. When people worship their brutal cruel slave masters, it is called religion.

    April 22, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  14. Gurumuki

    Today's specials at habibs mini mart:
    Buy one hijab get one free.
    free coffee stirrer stick with any purchase.
    free hotdog with kotex purchase.

    April 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  15. Phil Phffph

    sam gold,,,,, i think you are an idiot

    April 21, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
  16. Sam Gold

    Well I don;t see any Harm in Muslims wearing Hijabs
    Also to me the real terrorists are the Americans.I mean look at the deaths of 9/11 and compare that to Iraqi's number of innocent peoples death
    It is a lot more,its all down to Bush
    so in reality real terrorists are Americans

    April 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
    • U r an idiot

      Sure. and you probably see no harm with muslim arabs with machine guns running down the street killing people. U are clearly an idiot.

      April 22, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
  17. Latwanda

    Working with these people on a daily basis I can tell you that the majority of what they tell you is an outright lie. I do not trust one word that any of them ever tell me.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  18. Latwanda

    My hijab is my thong.
    I wear my thong everyday to hide my who-ha. It is not a religious thing. No man makes me wear one. And you can see my face so I can't hide behind it as most Muslim murderers do. Have a nice day.

    April 21, 2012 at 11:54 am |
  19. The Obama Christian Church Worldwide Campaign

    This is the reason why we worship and praise our good christian president Obama and that Obama will be Lord of the world on October 21st of this year. We need to use Obama to restore the traditional dictates of our good Word Of God or the Bible. The Obama Administration will help us christians restore the good morals of christianity which is good. We need to learn the gospels of Obama and Christ to restore the good morals of the world.

    April 18, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Ayu

      Yes, it would preclude him from being both.The natrue of faith would keep a Muslim from accepting Christianity, and also a Christian from accepting Muslim faith.I personally feel that Obama is just a show' Christian when he needs that persona .and is a show' Muslim when he needs it.Wimpy faith .wimpy politics ..wimpy personality.It's consistent.

      May 19, 2012 at 6:15 pm |
    • Sick of all of it

      Statements like yours are very scary. If you really believe that lying SOB is "lord of the world" you'd better check your bible. Someone call the men in the white coats for the members of your organization.
      Obama ran as a muslim, then when his cleric turned out to be an extreme crazy, he suddenly became "always have been Christian" He lies more than anyone I've ever seen, including other politicians.

      September 20, 2012 at 12:37 pm |
  20. Trancend

    Accept Jesus christ as your lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Trancend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ will result in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Currently.... your constructing your own path that suits your sin lifestyle.

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find a truth you can take with you in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life. You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf, the greatest minds knowledge fate or are eventually plagerzed, your good deeds are forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated, your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over .
    Trancend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Relise your a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent....

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth.

    Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment. You don't get what you want you get what you are in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Down is up. Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.

    Your all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.

    April 18, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
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About this blog

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.