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. Brunhilda

    I believe that most of the information presented in this article is not true. Unfortunately this is why no one with 1/2 a brain believes anything that these arab style people say. It is 99% lies which is what they are used to doing in their country. Put a lie detector on them and they will fail miserably.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Ahmed Hajajah

      Well said. I could'nt agree more.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:19 am |
  2. Babooshka Hockershushka

    I believe that the woman wanted a divorce from her mule of a husband and then she was killed by it. These people do need to go back to their 3rd world countries and their pigonistic ways.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
    • EmAllan

      You are so ignorant!

      April 7, 2012 at 2:51 am |
    • Samir Ubahdi

      Our lying culture is just how we are. We pretend to not know the answer when in fact we do. We will steal the shirt off your back when given the chance.

      April 7, 2012 at 10:24 am |
  3. Auntee Em

    I also like to wear a head scarf. It keeps the dust and dirt out of my va j j area.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  4. Abdul Habib Habibi Shishkabab

    At my quickie mart we now have buy 3 cigarettes get one free.
    All senior citizens get a free woopie cushion.
    Hackaschasha with achnid sauce $1.99
    Vomit bags buy on get one free.

    April 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  5. James in Deer Park

    Couple of things. Looks like the Alawadi killing was a family job Mizz Sarsour. As I said from the beginning. A hoax perpetrated by a Muslim terrorist, and trying to blame White America for it. Think Tawana Brawley if you will. Second, there have been a couple of robberies in my neighborhood recently, perpetrated by a young black male wearing a....oh my, a black hoodie. And hey, has there been much CNN reporting about the elderly couple (white) in Tulsa brutally attacked by a gang of thugs (black) and the wife murdered? Search it out. Heartbreaking. Before too long, we'll all be Bob and Nancy Strait if the trend of violence continues.

    April 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  6. Mike

    Soldiers and cops use sun glasses to intimidate.....so do anything covering heads like hoodies.....or chains or tats.....suggest remove all religious symbols and blend in......personally I would not even hire a person displaying any sort of religious symbols from any religion.....religion is the crutch for weak minded ...........

    April 6, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
  7. partysstink

    Mabey she should read the report that said this looks like her husband killed her for wanting a divorce. I agree there is this problem but use facts for your report.

    April 6, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Auntee Em

      this reporter needs to quit lying about everything and get her facts and her hijjaidia straight.

      April 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  8. Dennis

    I see hoodlums wearning hoodies in my neighborhood quite regularly.I have seen a few fly over my car hood too.They look great in my rearview mirror.No room for "hoods" in the hood.

    April 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm |

    Hey I think you forgot the part where Shaima Alawadi was trying to force her daughter to marry her own cousin. Also the part where the daughter texted someone "The detective will find out tell them cnt talk," after supposedly finding her dead mother's body. Don't be so certain this is a hate crime just yet...

    April 6, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  10. m assaf


    WELL, when you're wearing clothes that cant get any tighter, i call that COLORED skin. Where as, when your HAIR is covered, you happen to also dress more modest. I'm not trying to say im better than anyone, but DON'T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER... However, read between the lines and you'll realize that the ouside is just a protection for what's actually in the inside.

    April 6, 2012 at 6:40 pm |
  11. NAINA

    And excuse me about my english, is not good at all but...understandable

    April 6, 2012 at 6:37 pm |
  12. NAINA

    This comment is for all ignorants anti-muslim talking here without fundaments.
    First, go to school, read and learn history. But no EEUU history. World books
    Second, "taliban" is a word coming from arabic language and means "student". But since a few years, in the White House, decided to "extend" it like synonymous of "terrorist".
    Third, for somebody said that the black teen dont decide to be black but muslim people decides to be "terrorist"¿?
    For any person with common sense knows that there is no superior human race( include skin color) and knows too that ISLAM is a religion not a sect or a crime organization. An different thing is there a group of psychopaths or fanatics that use a reference as justification for their actions.
    Can be possible someone justificate 3000 thousand innocent died killing other innocent people?? Is this a revenge?
    Four, I support Linda Sarsour. This is not an isolated incident and is not an isolated ideology. But even though how much it hurts some, Islam is the religion that is growing more and faster in recent years and will continue this trend.
    If the muslims were terrorist would not exist otherwise religion people in the world for 14 centuries ago.

    The only and true terrorist are living in THE WHITE HOUSE OF EEUU

    If they leave us, PEACE IN THE WORLD.

    April 6, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • Dennis

      Yes,Naina..you don't wish to have bad words spoken of your religion yet you speak out againt all people whom have originated from Europe.You are a hypocrite at it's best.What I do not understand about most Muslims is that as a so called religion of peace,very little effort is made on their behalf to condemn these acts of terror which ultimately ruins the perception of Islam.Nothing but a mere wall of silence is noticed.Western culture and socitiey have to do very little to tarnish the religion of Islam.A very good job of it is already taking place by not strongly verbally condemning the barbaric,inhumane acts commited in the name of Allah.Western society at this time does not kill in the name of it's God.It usually is for political or personal beliefs.Naina,by the way,you are handling the English language quite well!

      April 6, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
    • sharkfisher

      All muslim dress offends me. Muslims offend me. Islam offends me. If you don't want to be treated like a criminal don't dress like one. If you don't like America Stay in your flea ridden sand pile.

      April 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • pat carr

      If you want so much respect, stop living in the 6th century

      April 7, 2012 at 12:41 am |
  13. The One True God

    Her hijab is also her swimsuit. And her apres-ski outfit. And her cycling clothing. And the ball and chain that she voluntarily wears.

    April 6, 2012 at 6:10 pm |
  14. Reality


    From the studies of Armstrong, Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Richardson and Bayhaqi-

    The Five Steps To Deprogram 1400 Years of Islamic Myths:
    ( –The Steps take less than two minutes to finish- simply amazing, two minutes to bring peace and rationality to over one billion lost souls- Priceless!!!)

    Are you ready?

    Using "The 77 Branches of Islamic "faith" a collection compiled by Imam Bayhaqi as a starting point. In it, he explains the essential virtues that reflect true "faith" (iman) through related Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings." i.e. a nice summary of the Koran and Islamic beliefs.

    The First Five of the 77 Branches:

    "1. Belief in Allah"

    aka as God, Yahweh, Zeus, Jehovah, Mother Nature, etc. should be added to your self-cleansing neurons.

    "2. To believe that everything other than Allah was non-existent. Thereafter, Allah Most High created these things and subsequently they came into existence."

    Evolution and the Big Bang or the "Gi-b G-nab" (when the universe starts to recycle) are more plausible and the "akas" for Allah should be included if you continue to be a "crea-tionist".

    "3. To believe in the existence of angels."

    A major item for neuron cleansing. Angels/de-vils are the mythical creations of ancient civilizations, e.g. Hitt-ites, to explain/define natural events, contacts with their gods, big birds, sudden winds, protectors during the dark nights, etc. No "pretty/ug-ly wingy thingies" ever visited or talked to Mohammed, Jesus, Mary or Joseph or Joe Smith. Today we would classify angels as f–airies and "tin–ker be-lls". Modern de-vils are classified as the de-mons of the de-mented.

    "4. To believe that all the heavenly books that were sent to the different prophets are true. However, apart from the Quran, all other books are not valid anymore."

    Another major item to delete. There are no books written in the spirit state of Heaven (if there is one) just as there are no angels to write/publish/distribute them. The Koran, OT, NT etc. are simply books written by humans for humans.

    Prophets were invented by ancient scribes typically to keep the un-educated masses in line. Today we call them for-tune tellers.

    Prophecies are also invali-dated by the natural/God/Allah gifts of Free Will and Future.

    "5. To believe that all the prophets are true. However, we are commanded to follow the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) alone."

    Mohammed spent thirty days "fasting" (the Ramadan legend) in a hot cave before his first contact with Allah aka God etc. via a "pretty wingy thingy". Common sense demands a neuron deletion of #5. #5 is also the major source of Islamic vi-olence i.e. turning Mohammed's "fast, hunger-driven" hallu-cinations into horrible reality for unbelievers.

    Walk these Five Steps and we guarantee a complete recovery from your Islamic ways!!!!

    Unfortunately, there are not many Muslim commentators/readers on this blog so the "two-minute" cure is not getting to those who need it. If you have a Muslim friend, send him a copy and help save the world.

    Analogous steps are available at your request for deprogramming the myths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and Paganism..



    April 6, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  15. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  16. Willy Brown


    April 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  17. ralph

    The hoddie kid was the Aggressor. punch me attack me you better be prepared to meet your maker!!!
    The hijab lady was unfortunetly killed by her husband, her daughter, or the hoddie boy that hosed the daughter!!!!!
    Bad this can happen to good people but when you deal out evil you get it twice as fast!!!!

    April 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Mark C

      Get help.

      April 6, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
  18. Dave

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

    I wonder if she's the 3000 innocent people who were killed by Muslims in the Twin Towers, too. Somehow I doubt it.

    April 6, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Since there were Muslims who died in the towers and who died as first responders ....

      We all were them that day.

      April 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  19. HoodiesKeepEarsWarm

    I am a 50 year old upper middle class vegan pacifist Buddhist and I were hoodies. I live by the ocean and they keep my ears warm.

    April 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm |
    • johnfrichardson

      I wear hoodies when I walk my dogs at night when it's cold old. They work well.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • HoodiesKeepEarsWarm

      oops, typo. I WEAR hoodies.

      April 6, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Penelope

      I am a 51 year old ethiopian/chinese woman who eats camel. I like to wear hoodies

      April 6, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  20. jimtanker

    Black people don’t have a choice in whether or not they are black. You have a choice in whether or not you are in an organization that supports terrorist organizations, either actively or passively.

    April 6, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Trey

      That's kind of an unfair generalization...While I see your point, one could also theorize that since the KKK terrorizes in the name of "Christianity", christians support a terrorist organization (same with the Westboro Baptist Church)...

      April 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"in an organization that supports terrorist organizations, either actively or passively."

      Ok, but then all their side has to do is go back into American history. Even to the actions of the founding fathers, flash then to WW2 and being the only country in History to use a Nuclear weapon. Never has a so many been killed at the same time. Then flash to Obama threatening Iran over closing the straits.

      Who defines terrorist or terrorism. If you declare you organization will attack a subway in Paris are you a terrorist? If you park a billion dollar aircraft carrier off someones coast and dare them to fly any of their planes, is that terrorizing?

      Try this.... United States and Russia still have Nuclear Weapons targeting each others population. I was raised at the end of the Cold War. Until this day 9/11 and the threat of 9/11 was never as frightening as knowing that in some bunker in Russia soilders are manning stations that are targeting us and I am sure some in Russia feel the same.

      April 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Mark C

      She didn't say she was in the Taliban, half-wit. She said she was a Muslim.

      April 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Royalew/Cheese

      Trey, I see your point, however an African-american has no choice in "wearing" his or her skin. A Muslim woman can choose to take of the Hijab which is what alerts people to her Muslimity

      April 6, 2012 at 6:31 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.