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. A'shadieeyah


    Here is the real hate crime caught on tape!!!

    April 15, 2012 at 12:02 am |
  2. Javon


    The only real proven hate crime against a white tourist.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm |

    I have to wonder how your "Hijab" would look rolled up in a tight ball and shoved up your ass. Get out of here terrorist.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Dieyoung

      You are one narrow-minded ignoramus

      April 15, 2012 at 4:35 am |
    • Jim USA

      I couldn't agree more. These arab style people need to go.

      April 21, 2012 at 11:50 am |

    NO fúcking Muslims should try to impose their sharia laws in our western countries!!! They try to turn the west into Muslim nations with sharia laws.......... read the Quran it tells us that non-Muslims should be killed!!!!

    Muhammed was a p.edophile!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Question for you

      You are right!!!! Islam is a Scam, but what about your religion? maybe less violent but also as stupid and dangerous as all others.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
    • specno

      II love how the people of islam say , well we kill people but yours is stupid. All religion is word of a used car salesman, but islam is the only one trying to sell you death.

      April 15, 2012 at 5:14 am |
  5. LoZ

    When the Muslims STOP imposing and shoveling their fake pedo.phile faith in our throats, stop killing innocent Christians/Jews, stop bombing churches, stop imposing their terrible Sharia law and start acting like normal people... then maybe they will get less insulted

    April 14, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
  6. † In God We Trust †

    Sure the Hijab is your "hoodie". If you remove it in public, you will get stoned to death (Sharia ((Islamic)) Law) by your husband & family.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  7. Foreal89

    Sounds like you are not happy you should go back to where you came from. stop pushing your backward beliefs on this great country. your race is a disease to any population.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  8. CSX

    You are both of your father the Devil. One of Cain and the other Ishmael.

    April 14, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
  9. Elmo

    What causes Stockholm Syndrome? Captives begin to identify with their captors initially as a defensive mechanism, out of fear of violence. Small acts of kindness by the captor are magnified, since finding perspective in a hostage situation is by definition impossible. Rescue attempts are also seen as a threat, since it's likely the captive would be injured during such attempts.

    April 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
  10. the new muneef

    you people -hijab is A CHOICE. MADE by WOMEN

    April 14, 2012 at 6:36 pm |
    • Elmo

      Muneef the point we are really trying to make about the hajib is called Stockholm Syndrome.

      April 14, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  11. Bluemoon

    Eff that. She was killed by her husband, and that precious hajib of hers points to exactly why he did it, and exactly why he thought he had the right to.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  12. NanookoftheNorth

    As many in this suburb of San Diego thought, turns out this was no hate crime afterall...but an 'inside job' by either the husband (Alawadi was planning on divorcing him) or the daughter, who often fought with her mother. The 'note' was merely a copy of a previous note found and was never reported to police.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Elmo

      So another honor killing?

      April 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • NanookoftheNorth

      Elmo – Or just in the heat of the moment with the husband or the daughter.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  13. Elmo

    We wear a hoody to keep warm. You were a hajib to hide yourself with intent. Go back to American Society 101 class. You've failed the culture test. You are still brain washed by your previous culture. As you can tell we will as a nation resist any attempt to foster Islamic cultural values on the women of America. Playing the race card will not work for you. We see your deck stacked with nothing but culture cards and Aces are wild. You loose.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
  14. toadears

    If you threaten us in our gated neighborhoods we will shoot your useless headgear.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  15. jeffrey

    Muslims have to fabricate hate crimes. She makes no mention of the millions upon millions who have to live under oppressive islamic rule, but instead focuses all her attention on this fabricated hate crime in order to claim victim status. Why those in the media do not call these muslims out is a sad indictment.

    April 14, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • toadears

      and not a word from this so-called reporter about the thi ghing crimes in islam of very young children. These women are a disgrace to motherhood.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
  16. Peikovianyi

    You've already got enough prison converts who are a danger to America. Don't need the extra propaganda.

    April 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  17. OregonTom

    Sweet heart you are too pretty for a hijab.

    April 14, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
  18. JZ

    Eliza, Esoteric...you guys are absolutely missing the point of her post. She's making a comparison to an injustice.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • Elmo

      A very poor comparison at that. She crossed the streams and anyone who has seen ghost busters knows thats bad.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm |


    April 14, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Jack

      All evidence is pointing to her husband on this sorry. The reason why people don't like Muslims is because they want all non Muslims dead

      April 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
  20. esoteric1

    No your hajib it is not "your hoodie" it is the opposite, see you get stoned to death, intimidated, beaten and shot when you take the hajib off....not when you put it on.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:51 am |
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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.