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. boban

    CNN shame on you, check the fact before you publish a subject like this.

    April 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • Nonimus

      CNN didn't write this and it's a Blog fer gosh sakes.
      What are you disagreeing with anyway?

      April 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  2. silentmajority

    With all do respect Ms. Sansour, before coming to any conclusions about the El Cajon CA case, please allow authorities to conclude the investigation. As of today, new information is leading that the murder of this poor woman, was NOT a hate crime and probably a "inside job".
    Just for the record this case is getting plenty of attention locally and in the middle east.
    When they find out real facts, I hope you are as dilligent to write about it.
    Thank you.

    April 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      She won't write anything if she is wrong. In fact I would bet that their will be another contrived pack of Lies printed by CNN supporting some other Muslim beilef designed to excuse them from reality and what they do to others in every Islamic State across the board. CNN you are a bunch of Muslim placating liars.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  3. Ungodly Discipline

    I am tired of having to care about others.

    I have decided to convert from atheism to Solipsism. The ceremony is going to be a blast, I will be having all my friends and family over and un-validating their existence. Then it will just be a free-for-all. I will also be getting a tattoo of my own face on my a.s.s.

    April 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • LinCA

      I'll be there in spirit.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  4. iamsikh

    I am a sikh and after 9/11 so many sikhs were attacked because they were thought to be muslims. Just because sikh men wear turbans and have long beards don't make us muslims. Muslims wear a hear gear which is very different than sikhs turban. Its really disheartening to see sikhs being attacked for no reason other than just looking like someone!!

    April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  5. Rosstrex

    Great another article with Muslim contrived propaganda based on spurious correlations and outright lies. Nice job parsing the data Linda, you make lies appear to be true. If anyone even looks into what you are saying for 5 minutes we see that Muslim discrimination in the United States does not even compare to discrimination of so many other groups here that it does not rate publishing an article about it.

    Additionally Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Adamidis, Atheists and every other religious group is physically assaulted, jailed and far worse in Islamic States across the globe. CNN as usually supports whatever Lies Muslims want to see in print. My question is why?

    April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  6. shanti@cavs.msstate.edu

    Your analogy is flawed. I am surprised they let you print this.
    We are indeed intellectually bankrupt.


    April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
  7. Rimmy

    If a non-muzzie goes to your country and does not wear a "hoodie", her ass will be arrested and probably tortured. You have no right critisize our culture. You have freedom of religion here thanks to the tolerance of Americans. Nobody from our country is hijacking your planes and flying them into your country's buildings killing innocent people. I hate the way you muzzies gripe and moan after the way you have treated us and many other countries. Shame on you muzzzie biatch.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Sam

      There are many non muslims living in islamic countries bro

      April 5, 2012 at 3:10 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      Sam – Can a Christian build a church in any of the Islamic Countries? Can a Hindu build a temple? A Buddhist build a shrine? How about Saudi Arabia can any other religous group even carry their religious symbols or books there? The answer is a resounding NO! Islamic States and culture practice the darkest of evils. In every Islamic State across the globe all "other" religous groups including Muslims are jailed, discriminated against and Far Far worse. Try being a young female Hindu in Pakistan or a Young Female Christian. One word discribes Islam = Evil.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Imran

      How about the drones .. are they planes bombing people's home.. just wanted to understand your logic better..a and what about the big boots kicking open people's homes at night.. and shooting kids..

      April 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
  8. Molly

    Yes....author needs to get more up to date information. The case of the 32 year old mom in San Diego is now looking like a family member is involved and the assailant left the note to distract investigators.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      It will not be a surprise that the note was used to attempt to throw the investigators off the trail of the Muslim who killed her. So sad that Muslims spend all of their time trying to cover up the truth of their religion and not spend the same amount of effort improving thier religion or their mindset.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • GodPot

      Which doesn't change the point of the article at all.

      "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. 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."

      Regardless of whether one of the examples she uses turns out to be a hate crime or family violence, the facts are that anti-muslim hate crimes have been on the rise.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  9. Bobby

    This will not be ruled a hate crime. It is domestic related. This is why you don't jump the gun and you let the authorities do their jobs. Public opinion is not a part of our justice system.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
  10. Brad

    Given the prominent role of Islam in advocating violence against, and actually attacking, Americans in particular and non-Muslims in general, there have been remarkably few bias attacks against Muslims in the United States. The sad fact is that Alawaidi was quite possibly killed, in a so called "Muslim honor killing", by her husband or another close male relative. Islam has a long history of sanctioning violence against women, and the hijab itself is a sign of women's official status as inferiors in Islam. Sarsour is a propagandist for Islamic supremecy, nothing more.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • Rosstrex

      Yeah you can say that again. I am beginning to believe CNN is publishing articles so filled with fallacy in support of Muslims that they are actually against Muslims secretly. Think about it if CNN just did some simple fact checking prior to posting this article it would have validity. Currently the article above is a pack of lies and anyone who simply looks into what she is saying can easily see that.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  11. the_dude

    Once again it is not the fact that colored people get murdered. Apparently the colored people have no problems with that fact. The only problem they have is if colored people get murdered by white people then there is some big issue. Black kills another black...no one could care less......Muslim kills another muslim...no one could be bothered to care. But if a white person kills any brown skin it is the worst crime ever.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
    • me me me

      you are right, there is nothing more to be said. when a black person kills a black person it barely makes the news. But when what they assume is a white person then it's all over the news. Same situation with Muslims. They kill each other and blame it on others. I wonder if they are taught to kill since their infancy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      April 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bigdawg

      I am sorry Dude, I think you missed the point that the writer has so clearly made. Both killings are hate related. However, that of Trevon has remained in the spotlight while Alwadi's has received little or no press. The question she asked is; Is a Muslim American's life worth less than any other American. Bigotry in any form is wrong, and you cannot justify these crime by saying Black on Black or Muslim on Muslim killings occur on a regular basis and no one is up in ams about it, so why jump up and down when a white person kills a non-white person. I am sorry; your comment is idiotic. No one has the right to take another person's life.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • Please spare me the B.S.

      Get it right...Zimmerman is HISPANIC....NOT WHITE!!!

      April 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  12. Eric


    The Muslim mother was likely killed by her husband or another male relative (Isn't her father a strict religous cleric in Iraq?). I would be willing to bet there have been more Muslim honor killings in America since 9/11 than racially motivated attacks on Muslims in the same time period.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:56 pm |
  13. Peikovianyi

    Alert security.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  14. tsm

    Isn't there evidence that the woman you're referring to more than likely was killed by someone in her family.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
    • Juil

      It is now being told she wanted a divorce and the father was going to make his 17 year old daughter marry her cousin. He told the police he had taken the kids to school that moring, but the kids didn't go to school that day. This is looking more like a honor killing. And when the daughter was in the police station being questioned she got a text to not talk to the police. Cair is backing away from this cast big time. Go to San Diego news 10 on the web and read it.

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

      I have never heard of a honor killing where the killer leaves a note suggesting someone other than the victim's family or a member of the muslim community. Sounds to me like the police is pushing this case aside just the same as they have done with so many minority cases. You are so quick to blame the victim. I suggest you not respond because your own racial prejudice is begining to show its ugly head.

      April 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
  15. rita krishna

    Everybody wears hoodies and everybody wears scarfs both are popular and fashionable to wear. The issue is WHO U ARE

    April 5, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Untrusting after 9/11

    NO NO NO DON'T YOU DARE COMPARE YOUR SITUATION WITH THIS YOUNG MAN'S. I am so sick of everyone correlating their life/story with Trayvon's. Even the President! How dare you diminish this man's life by riding on his coat tails. What I see when I see female Muslims in their dress is a group of people who do not love America and who are not patriotic to this country... you only love your religion. Until you can prove to me that you love America and would stand up for her during a crisis instead of turning on us, I will not trust you.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
    • Graced

      Thank you, Untrusting. Well said.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Please spare me the B.S.


      April 5, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  17. Shelley

    Who are we as a country to put an ENTIRE ethnic & multi-religious groups in one definition of exactly who these people really are? That's like saying all African Americans are gangsters...its an outrageous & ignorant statement & obviously NOT true, & the same goes for any statement saying these people are ALL terrorist.

    Yes there might be people of the faith & culture who do those things, but as americans whether we are black, white, brown or purple we have the same problems in our own country. Have you completely forgotten OKC? We have our own murderers & terroriest on our own soil, but is that the definitions of Americans? Absolutely not!

    I am a young amercian who was brought up under the Christian faith ALL MEN WERE CREATED EQUAL.
    10 Commandments state : Love thy neighbor! Not love my neighbor as long as he is the kind of person I can love. Whether you believe in God, Gods, a cow, or nothing at all...the basic belief that we love our neighbor did not have an astrict on the end of it, remember that when it is so easy to choose hate bc of fear & not acceptance & open mindedness.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  18. Mohammed

    Would anyone like to draw a portrait of me so I can hang in the corner of the mosque?

    That was a trick question! You don't ever draw me! I will hold up a sandle in the air to things that i don't like.

    A list of things I don't like: Infidels, smart attractive women, dirty sandals near my face, being late to prayers, did I say infidels yet?

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

      Is it ok if we draw you...wearing a bear costume?

      April 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm |
    • Mohammed

      Actually I would like that very much

      April 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
  19. Tom

    The woman murdered she references was probably killed by a male relative. She can take her whining somewhere else, preferably the middle east, because if it's a problem perhaps she should leave and go where it isn't.

    April 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
  20. christina

    Live in san Diego and as of yesterday, story has changed about Shaima...appears that it is not hate related but inside/family scenario....

    April 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Pwnd

      It was more fun to automatically believe those crazy bigot Americans did it, though.

      April 5, 2012 at 2:54 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.