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. Mark in California

    When people stop make judgements about others based on what they wear and start basing it on the persons actions we will ALL be a lot better off. However for Bigots/Racist/A$$hats that's impossible. Thinking that much hurts their tiny brains, so all they can do it try to find a way to deride this story... Do you understand what deride means???

    April 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Johnny America

      LOL he thinks deride is a big word..how cute

      April 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm |
    • Joe

      Deride has 2 definitions. 1 is to laugh at contemptuously and 2nd is to subject to usually bitter or contemptuous ridicule. I don't see how either fits right into your sentence professor.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • Ungodly Discipline

      I am going to take deride to the beach today. Beautiful weather!

      April 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • Nii

      “Do you understand what deride means???”

      Yes I do. It’s what you call it when get transported somewhere. As in thanks for deride to the penny loafer store mom.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  2. Please spare me the B.S.

    Just what the world needs, another Liberal from California!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Just what the world needs

      Yeah, and I'm sure your ignorance-fueled, bigoted political agenda is any better.
      Muslims, Christians, Jews, blacks, hispanics, whites, men, women, straight, gay, we're all people, and we all deserve to be treated equally as such.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
    • boocat

      Just what this country needs....another conservative moron who is dead from the neck up?

      April 5, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  3. Johnny America

    Its clear from reading the things on here that some people such as Chad and Wellput are desperate need of education.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Chad

      I take that as a compliment coming from an asshat such as yourself.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm |
  4. Joe

    If people like sharpton and jackson knew Zimmerman was hispanic at first this probably wouldnt have been talked about for more than a day. If you know your head scarf is going to cause problems why would you possibly wear it. It's a very old and pointless custom so get rid of it already.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Please spare me the B.S.

      Absolutely...or if it was another black person that pulled the trigger. They are all bottom draggers looking to blame everything on the white guy.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  5. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Both incidents are indeed awful tragedies that no one should condone! However, I believe the public outrage over the Martin's case was due in part to the fact that there were a host of evidence for the public to disect as to how Martin died! But in the case of Alawadi, not much is known to the public as to how she was killed and by whom? For example, was she indeed murdered by an anti-Muslim American person or group or by a family member of friend who wrote the note to mislead the police into believing it was a hate crime? But nevertheless, any kinds of hate crimes in America divides and weakens our democracy.

    I have to agree with you that since 9/11 Muslim Americans have been the target of more hate crimes than any other religious or ethnic groups in America and that is wrong because that is not who we are as a society! At least that is what I would like to believe! Subsequently, none of the 9/11 highjackers were American citizens and neither were they legal residents of the United States! Yet, naturalized Muslim-Americans and their offsprings who were born in the United States of America continue to be unjustly scrutinized, singled out and targeted by anti-Muslim radicals in America! That is wrong! Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the worst terrorist attacks on American soil were carried out at the federal building in Oklahoma City by a decorated all-American war veteran in Timothy McVae, yet hard working, tax paying, loving law abiding patriotic Muslim-Americans continue to be unjustly and unfairly singled out by individuals of all levels of our society! That is sad and it is wrong!

    Furthermore, I believe if were are going to endure and progress as a true democracy, these kinds of hate crimes must stop. Americans of all faith and denominations, race, color, creed and ethnicity must pull themselves together, do a little soul searching and pay homage to that sacred phrase "one nation under God." There's a saying "united we stand, divided we fall" and I personally believe that if we Americans continue to take for granted, all the parts that make as whole as a diverse and unique nation with God's blessings, then we may one day wake up and realize that we are a nation in revolt because of our bigotry, ignorance and complacency!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Johnny America

      Such a long and ignorant statement...what a waste of internet.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Sharky

      I have to say a fantastic comment 'Blah blah' I totally agree.
      Such a shame that 'Johnny America' seems to be the voice of America these days, loud, brash and dumb like a fog horn.


      April 6, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  6. Ungodly Discipline

    My condom is my hoody.

    My sperm victims of my solidarity.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
  7. sandpen4

    What the sister wrote could be understood by 6th graders. Two people were murdered. Both wore different head wear. protest marches are being held from coast to coast about one murdered victim and not the other. Why the DISPARITY IN TREATMENT OF THE TWO VICTIMS? For those who cannot understand what the writer is stating then you all should not have skipped the 6th grade. NO NEED FOR VULGARITY, BIGOTRY, OR HOSTILE COMMENTS. SIMPLY REPEAT 6TH GRADE!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • No Likey

      I read the article and understand the comparison that the woman is trying to make. Her comparison is completely flawed however. Instead of repeating 6th grade, I think I'll continue my corporate job and continue to pursue Masters Degrees and PhDs. Maybe you should try the 6th grade again since your comprehension is so low.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • fearisenemy

      There are probably a hundred cases that are not being publicized that are just as controversial... why not complain about those as well. In the time it took me to write this one black guy killed another black guy... or Hispanic guy... or vise versa. The Treyvon case is so over blown it makes me sick.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
    • oscar

      One aspect we forget is we are humans and needs to be treated equally the same blood is flowing in every human being. Then why is there be any discrimination.
      One day every one turn comes and we depart.. but we do not want to realize the fact and live in illusion that there is not end and discriminate against one another.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:45 pm |
    • hapa1688

      @ no likey
      "I think I'll continue my corporate job and continue to pursue Masters Degrees and PhDs."

      your corporate job is probably located in Scranton, PA and you are probably pursuing your MULTIPLE degrees @ Springfield University

      which explains why you couldn't figure out when to use the word here or hear in another post
      ""I here you can rent those. Hahahahaha, learn to spell""

      April 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  8. Kathryn

    When my grandparents came to America they adapted to life here and embraced its ways. You look like a nice lady and I know what it's like to be concerned for your children. But as long as honor killings do exist, Muslims want Shari law to make them exempt from USA laws, they don't want to integrate into American life, and v-e-r-y few Muslims have denounced terrorism against America...well, if Muslims were extremely vocal about these I think things would get easier for you. Bottom line: We expect anyone coming to America to fit in. Muslims want Americans to change to fit their ways. Most Americans aren't receptive to this.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • carl47

      Very well said

      April 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      the primary reason very few Muslims have denounced terrorism is because the terrorists are RIGHT!!! it is just that their methods are wrong. Killing innocent civilians is not the way to avenge what they CORRECTLY perceive to be mass terrorism by the American Government the world over.

      Muslims are afraid that if they denounce terrorism, they will as a result be seen as denouncing the terrorism of the US Government and its fellow cohort the Soviet Government of the past 50 years. Muslims are "anti-war" and "anti-dictator supporting" while the US Government is always interested in formenting war and always interested in supporting dictators all over the world.

      Until ordinary Americans STAND-UP and STAND-DOWN their Military-Industrial Complex, don't expect Muslims to do your DIRTY WORK for you :-)

      April 5, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
  9. fearisenemy

    What if it was Trayvon Martin who killed Shaima Alawadi. We would have to assume it was not her family that actually killed her, which is more likely than someone leaving a note about killing a terrorist.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  10. venusiansky

    Didn't the unabomber where a hoodie? Just sayin.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
  11. Mike

    I felt the pain to all the Muslim communities all across america and Arab-Americans regardless their religious belief. I am not a muslim, but this is not about religious or what countries the arab-americans came from. Regardless of races or cultures or religious belief, hate should not be tolerate or taugh to young children. Why so little public for arab-american when it come to hate crime? I don't know, maybe someone need to form an arab-american model like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton or join NAACP to get them to stand by you Arab-Americans. It wasn't an easy road back in the 50' and 60's to fight for equal right. There were many injuries or deaths to pave the road for our future generation and it is far from perfect. You Arab-Americans going to have to stand up to fight loud and clear to stop this hate crimes in full force out in public... when you have that many arab-americans take a stand, then you will have non arab-americans to join force with you like the Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and otyher leaders of the Arab-Americans march on to Capitol Hill to fight for your respects and attention to your needs. I am an Africa-american and I stand by you Arab-Americans.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • Nice

      Nicely Done!

      April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • fu9l

      hate should not be tolerate or taugh to young children... well they do they also teach them because your not a mussilum you should convert or be killed this is life there terrorist get over it...

      April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Arnold

      Watchu takin bout

      Wanna try that again in english?

      April 5, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  12. Astonished

    Why the hate? Wearing a head scarf is a form of modesty. Being conservative is highly regarded by all faiths. Yes, these women cover their beauty and body, but why should that be a reason to disrespect? They are so confident with themselves that they do not need to show off their beauty. Yes, she should be proud to be Muslim. Anyone who knows Islam should walk with their head raised high. Great article!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • No Likey

      what are your thoughts on the evidence pointing to this being an honor kiIIing?? That's the truth, sorry state the facts you clueless clown.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • holdem

      Don't blame Americans for feeling this way about Muslims. Blame your fundamentalist brethren for holding that entire religion hostage.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • Nice

      No Likey – you are a total moron. No Likey you – Racist

      April 5, 2012 at 2:29 pm |
    • No Likey

      @nice – why am I a total moron? Have you followed this story? How about you read the latest evidence before calling other's name, you fookin ldiot.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • sandpen4

      I don't see anyone going after the Catholic Nuns who are covered very much like the Muslim sisters are.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
  13. CG

    Multicultural / multi-ethnic society was such an awesome idea! It's so awesome!! I love it.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
  14. LStein361

    When Muslims speak out against radical Islam, when they speak out against Christian persecution in Islamic countries, when they stop killing, bombing, plotting and attacking people without their religious ideals – then maybe I will care about your discrimination.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • Mark in California

      They do speak out, but you're not listening. Sorry but that doesn't play well on Faux news.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
    • GodPot

      At least you are honest about it and call it what it is, discrimination. It's just sad that you do not care about other humans.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • Independent Thinker....

      WOW! This post shows how truly uneducated you are. It's people like you that are causing all the hate in this country and that is sad. If you would actually listen to what happens in daily life you would realize that the Muslim community is constantly denouncing the hate from a small minority in their religion like it was a full time job. I don't know what to say to people like you because there is no brain their to receive the information. I and many others on this site would just prefer you keep your pre-Civil Rights Bigotry to yourself. This world doesn't need people like you.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • I'm The Best!

      You say that but you probably wouldn't feel that way about someone discriminating against you because of something other people are doing. For example, there is still racism against blacks, if your white would you put up with being discriminated against because of these people? Or what about people discriminating against Christians because they bomb abortion clinics. I think you're just a bigot trying to find justification in your intolerance.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • GodPot

      I wonder how people would react if the media started calling single white male catholics "R a p i s t s" whenever they are discussed and when the minority of Catholics that have abused young children stop and turn themselves in then I will care about the lies and discrimination against them.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Jafar

      Interesting. Did you speak out about David Koresh? Did you speak out about Terry Jones? or any other idiot who does something and claim he is good Christian? Are all Hispanics out there denouncing the killing of Trayvon? NO, NO, NO, and NO.
      Why do us Muslims have to keep proving ourselves? Why do we have to keep defending ourselves? If someone is guilty, he/she will be prosecuted under law!
      Why do we have to go through what African Americans went through? Didn't we learn anything from that?
      People are people. You do not judge individuals based on their background, and you do not judge a society by the few.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Mohamed


      Let's jihad these infidels!

      April 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  15. ug

    Funny how the moslems are part of the liberal agenda to cover the hoodie conflict that the k k k and the blacks want to hide behind...

    April 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  16. Chris

    It's just not worth the risk...this Nation is going to be a crazy place because of politics. I'd loose the Hajib...

    April 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. Neesha

    Very sad story! Any sort of injustice needs to gain attention so many people can fight against it. Also, we cannot assume that all muslims are terrorist based on the tragedy of 9-11, just like we cannot assume that all white people are racist based on the history of America & abroad. The truth of the matter is is that their are radical Christians & Muslims.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • fu9l

      all muslims are terrorist NOT ALL JUST 90% OF THEM ARE DONT FORGET mussilums are responsible for 99% of terrorist attacks around the world but not 1 mussilum country has done anything to stop them or kill them... they only fund and hide them ...also if you yourself are not a mussilum and you livved in a mussilum country you wouild be killed if you didnt convert thats life dont become a mussilum die plain and simple we should give them that option only or lable it the cult that it is and outlaw it.....

      April 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • angela

      Exactly! People you need to/listen to the news outside the USA. You will then know that it's not just the radical Muslims that are crazy, but some radical Christians are out there too.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • B(iraq) Hussein Osama

      The 1% terrorist attack by non-muslims (invasion of Iraq) has killed more innocent civilians than the so-called "99% terrorist attacks by Muslims" that you so claim. Food for thought.

      April 5, 2012 at 10:28 pm |
  18. GodPot

    I think she has a valid point, the word "terrorist" when used as a slur should be viewed much like the "N" word. It is derogatory, false and now frequently used to verbally attack peace abiding Americans which is shameful.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
    • Neesha

      Very true!

      April 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm |
    • fu9l

      never all mussilums should be labled terrorists sine not a one has done a thing to stop the others .. all they do is hide them and feed them money so to bad

      April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • sandpen4


      April 5, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • angela

      it's true people. Listen and learn

      April 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • seyedibar

      When religions stop associating with terrorists, we can stop associating religion with terrorism. Your semantics matters little.

      April 5, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
  19. sicantik

    OH PUHLEAAAASE.... HER FAMILY KILLED HER.... SHEESH....I can't believe CNN posted this CRAP!!!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  20. Please spare me the B.S.

    By the way, Zimmerman is HISPANIC....NOT WHITE, so please, Rev. Al, Jesse J and all of the others...please go back into your hole. You can't pin this one on the white guy!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:18 pm |
    • GodPot

      Zimmerman is hispanic just like Obama is a white man since he had a white mother. Georges father claims to be white and his mother is Peruvian, so which is he?

      April 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm |
    • Mark in California

      Godspot is right on... beside, census classifies White and Hispanic together.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Please spare me the B.S.

      I am not talking about census...are you color blind!!!

      April 5, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • GodPot

      I wonder what color your skin would be considered if you had it scanned at an ACE hardware paint store...

      I doubt it would be "White" so what does a persons actual skin color have to do with their nationality or race? You would likely be labeled "Navajo White" or maybe "Eggshell" or "Ancient Ivory". When you say "Zimmerman is HISPANIC....NOT WHITE" you are attempting to hide his white herritage behind a label you can distance yourself from because you are a weak minded imbecile.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:56 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.