Shaima Alawady’s Murder - updated 11/10/12

Shaima Alawady’s Murder

by Sheila Musaji

Shaima Alawady, an immigrant from Iraq, was beaten to death in her home in El Cajon, California last Wednesday.  A handwritten note saying “go back to your country terrorist” was found near her body.  She and her family had recently moved to El Cajon, and she wore a hijab, and so was recognizably Muslim.

The local police are asking for the publics help in obtaining any useful information about this crime.  The FBI is helping the local police with their investigation.

The police say that they are not ruling out any of the motives that someone might have had for killing Mrs. Alawady, but acknowledge that this may possibly have been a hate crime.

At this point, not enough facts are known to say what the motive for the crime might have been, or to know if this was a hate crime.  However, the case is being watched closely, not only by the American Muslim community, but also by Muslims in other countries, including her native Iraq.  The story is generating thousands of articles, and a great deal of concern.

Many in the Muslim community believe that it was her hijab (headscarf) that drew the attention of her murder.  A Facebook group, One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi, has been set up in her memory. The group has already acquired 5,800 followers. 

The government of Iraq is paying to fly her body back to Iraq for burial. 

Whatever happened,  whatever the motive, whoever is responsible for this brutal murder needs to be found, tried, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. 

The Muslim Public Affairs Council, MPAC has asked the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to closely monitor the developments of the case, and is in communications with the San Diego Police Department.

It is to be hoped that the investigation by law enforcement will result in quickly finding the individual(s) responsible.  It is also to be hoped that the American Muslim community will wait until all the facts are in to make a decision about whether or not this might have been a hate crime, or something else.

UPDATE 3/28/2012

Rabia Chaudary has written an article on how this murder might impact American Muslims.  In that article she points out

On the face of it, the murder of Shaima looks clearly like a hate crime. Inside the Muslim community, the conversation began first with prayers for the family and outrage at this religiously motivated attack, and then the disheartening realization that there was always a possibility it could have been a domestic assault staged to look like something else. Facebook feeds, blog posts, hushed exchanges began to quiet down as people decided to withhold judgment until more facts emerged.

Was this a case of Islamophobia or domestic violence? Horrifying either way, the reaction of the American Muslim community reveals much about our current psyche. If indeed this is the crime of a bigot who killed Shaima because she was a headscarf-wearing Muslim, it signals a new era of danger in being Muslim in America. Shaima would be the first Muslim woman to be murdered in the United States in a hate crime. However, if this turns out to be a domestic assault, then it would not be the first time a Muslim woman has been killed by her husband here in the U.S.  The big question for Muslims is this: which, for our community, is worse?

...  Is it worse for the Muslim community that Islamophobia has reached such levels that such an attack can take place or that this may be an incidence of DV that will feed into the ugly narratives of Islamophobes? Is it worse that we, American Muslims, may be in greater physical danger or that the perception of our faith may be in greater danger? The fact that we have to even decide which is worse, and what we hope for, is a clear reflection of a community that feels under siege.

The truth is that there is no answer to this ugly question. A young woman and mother of five is dead, and we pray for justice for her, regardless of who the committed the crime or why it was motivated. We need another prayer as well, for the stamina and resilience of American Muslims to keep above the fray, to push back against lies, to stay true to their country and their religion, and to work harder both inside and outside the Muslim community so that never again is another Shaima killed.

UPDATE 4/5/2012

According to information now coming out and reported by the San Diego Union Times, it appears that there is reason to doubt that this was a hate crime.  There was a great deal of turmoil going on within her family at the time of her death.  That turmoil places some suspicion on both her husband, and daughter, Fatima. 

Both of them are now in Iraq, as they accompanied Shaima’s body there for her funeral.

As I said when this case first became public, we still don’t have enough facts to draw any conclusions, and: Whatever happened,  whatever the motive, whoever is responsible for this brutal murder needs to be found, tried, and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

I know that there are some in the Muslim community, like Linda Sarsour who feel that taking this position of waiting until all of the evidence is in before commenting on this crime is a sign of allowing “our internalized oppression to lead us to believe the stereotypes perpetuated against our community”, and that this is “disheartening” and “disenpowering”.  However, I still believe that we need to wait and see what the evidence turns out to be.

The Qur’an offers clear instructions about not jumping to conclusions:

O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily God is well-acquainted with all that ye do. (4:135)

O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, in deeds some suspicions are sins. And spy not neither backbite one another. Would one of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it (so hate backbiting). And fear God, verily, God is the one who accepts repentance, Most Merciful. (49: 12)

Behold, you received it on your tongues, and said out of your mouths things which you had no knowledge; and you thought it to be a light matter, while it was most serious in the sight of God (24: 15)

It is predictable that the Islamophobic Who’s Who (including Debbie Schlussel and Pamela Geller) are using the newest information on this case to call this an “honor killing”.  Until we know all of the facts, this shouldn’t be called a hate crime, an honor killing, or anything else.  Even if it turns out that it is a case of domestic violence, all such cases are not honor killings.  What is important is that justice is served and the killer of Shaima Alawady is found and prosecuted.

UPDATE 5/11/2012

Shaima Alawady’s daughter and husband are now back in the U.S.  Although law enforcement has not released any more information, Pamela Geller has published another hateful article in which she discusses the case as if she personally knows exactly what happened, what kind of a crime it was, and who is guilty.  I think that Geller was born here (although I haven’t seen her birth certificate) and can’t understand why she doesn’t know that in America, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. 

UPDATE 11/10/2012

Kari Huus reports that Shaima Alawadi’s death was domestic violence not hate crime, arrest husband

Kassim Alhimidi, 48, was booked into jail Thursday evening on one count of first-degree murder. He is being held without bail.  “After months of hard work, we determined that this homicide was a result of domestic violence,” El Cajon Police Chief Jim Redman said Friday, reported. ...  The couple’s minor children have been taken into protective custody.

If the husband is found guilty, he should be prosecuted not only for murder, but for making a false claim that this was a hate crime.  Fake hate crimes are themselves hate crimes.  As I said in a previous article about such false claims by members of many different groups Rash of Fake Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Teaches Important Lesson :

... Islamophobes make much of the fact that there are some criminals in the Muslim community who have stooped to claiming a hate crime when there has been none.  Daniel Pipes, Michelle Malkin, Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, etc. have all breathlessly published articles about what they call the “myth” of Muslim hate crimes.  They use the fact that there have been Muslims who have faked hate crimes to cast doubt on the existence of any hate crimes against Muslims.  They also use the fact that in some cases the Muslim community, or particular organizations have asked for an investigation in some of these cases of false claims as proof of insincerity on the part of Muslims.  This is simply bigoted, and wrong.

...  For every category of hate crime there have been people who have taken advantage of an opportunity to further their own agenda and claim a hate crime where none existed.  There are hundreds of such cases.  At the bottom of this article is A LIST OF A FEW SUCH CASES OF FAKE OR HOAX HATE CRIMES.  The issue is not that there are some despicable individuals who will lie about hate crimes, but that there are far too many legitimate hate crimes against minorities.

...  No rational human being would blame the American Jewish community for the criminals committing fake hate crimes.  No rational human being would conclude that any hate crime reported by a member of the American Jewish community should be suspect because individuals who are Jewish had carried out fake hate crimes. 

I personally would like to see fake hate crimes treated by the legal system as equally as harmful as actual hate crimes, and be given as harsh a sentence.  Fake hate crimes are themselves hate crimes.  Certainly, they have the same result of frightening entire communities until the culprits are caught. ...

The only possible good that could come out of this tragedy would be that this focused the Muslim community (and other communities) to renew their efforts to end domestic violence.  A National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders To Address Violence Against Women was published in 2007.  Such initiatives need to be strengthened in a sincere effort to end violence against women.  The original document is only available by subscription, but can also be found here.  The declaration said

We proclaim with one voice as national spiritual and religious leaders that violence against women exists in all communities, including our own, and is morally, spiritually and universally intolerable.

We acknowledge that our sacred texts, traditions and values have too often been misused to perpetuate and condone abuse.

We commit ourselves to working toward the day when all women will be safe and abuse will be no more.

We draw upon our healing texts and practices to help make our families and societies whole.

Our religious and spiritual traditions compel us to work for justice and the eradication of violence against women.

We call upon people of all religious and spiritual traditions to join us.


A distressing statement from NOW-NY, Hussein Rashid
A Family Affair: Afshan Azad’s Assault
A Family in Severe Psycho-Spiritual Crisis- Guilty Verdict in Shafia Murders, Waleed Ahmed
A Perspective on Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community, Salma Elkadi Abugideiri
A test of faith, Fatima Cash 
Abuse, asylum and America: violence against women, Rafia Zakaria
ALLAH Does Not Allow Domestic Violence, Imam Abdullah El Amin
American Muslim Women’s Organizations as Innovators in Domestic Violence Policy
American Muslims Call For Swift Action Against Domestic Violence, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa
An Imam’s Guide to deal with domestic violence, Abdul Malik Mujahid
An Imam’s Guide for dealing with abusive men, Uzma Mazhar
Baitul Salaam Network for Domestic Violence
Biblical Battered Wife Syndrome: Christian Women and Domestic Violence, Kathryn Joyce
Book review: “Honour Killing: Stories of Men Who Killed”: A disturbing look into a killer’s psyche, Asma Uddin
Bureau of Justice statistics of family murders
Community Pressure as a Deterrent to Injustice, Uzma Mazhar
The Complex Nature of Domestic Violence and Religion
Constructing the Notion of Male Superiority over Women in Islam, Dahlia Eissa 
The Death of Aqsa Parvez Should Be an Interfaith Call to Action, Sheila Musaji
Death By Culture?:  How Not to Talk about Islam and Domestic Violence, Zareena Grewal 
Domestic Violence:  A Violation of Islam, Global Muslim Women’s Shura Council
Do Fundamentalism and Other Religious Variables Predict Domestic Violence?,  James Alexander
Does the Qur’an tolerate domestic abuse: interview with Laleh Bakhtiar on Qur’an 4:34
Domestic Abuse by Muslim Men?  Is the 18% Statistic Too Low?, , by Dr. Robert Dickson Crane
Does a bullet kill less than a blade?, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam
Domestic Violence, Mohammad Khaku
Domestic Violence, Dr. Aslam Abdullah
Domestic violence within the Muslim American community, Karamah
Domestic Violence: The Numbers, Mother Jones 
Domestic Violence and abuse in the Muslim community - Resource collection 
Domestic violence, an Islamic perspective 
Domestic Violence Prevention & Education in Faith-Based Communities - a resource collection
Domestic Violence and Women of Color
Domestic violence facts
Domestic violence hurts Muslims too: Stop the hurt now,  Aneesah Nadir, MSW, CISW
Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community, New Star Family Center
Domestic Violence in Muslim Families, Dr. Jeremiah McAuliffe
Domestic Violence and abuse in the Muslim community - TAM Resource collection
Domestic Violence within the Muslim American Community, KARAMAH
Don’t Hold All Muslims Responsible for Men Who Misuse Quran, Beat Women, Summer Hathout
Ending Domestic Violence in Muslim Families, Sharifa Alkhateeb
Imam Mohammed Fadel on honor killings 
Family tragedy no time for cultural warfare, Haroon Siddiqui—family-tragedy-no-time-for-cultural-warfare
FATWAS - Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah issues fatwa condemning honor killings and calling them “repulsive acts” - 40 scholars in Pakistan issue fatwa against honor killings  -  ISCC affiliated Imams Issue Important Fatwa on Honor Killings Misogyny and Domestic Violence
FBI assisting in murder investigation of Iraqi woman,0,3520529.story
Geller & Spencer’s “Human Rights Conference” Another Anti-Muslim Hate Fest, Sheila Musaji
God’s Batterers: When Religion Subordinates Women, Violence Follows, Susan Brooks Thistlewaite
Aasiya Zubair Hassan, Domestic Violence and Islam, Pamela K. Taylor
Honor Killing: Deaths Should Be an Interfaith Call to Action, Sheila Musaji
Honor killing, a crime against Islam
Honor killing and Islam, Kamran Pasha
Honor killing: condemnations are not enough, Shahed Amanullah
Honor killing from an Islamic perspective
“Honor” Killings and Political Correctness, Peter Gray
Honor killings among Hindus in India
Honor Killing: Is Violence Against Women a Universal Problem, Not an Islamic issue?, John Esposito
Honor killings and Islam, is there a link?, Omer Subhani
Honor killings: always wrong and never Islamic, Rosemary Pennington
Honor Killings (and Their Fallout) Come To Britain, Zahed Amanullah
Honor Killings: The Epidemic that Isn’t, Ilisha
Honoring Aasiya, Muna Ali 
Honoring women, Ameena Jandali
Investigating a Muslim’s Murder:  Islamophobia? Domestic Violence? Honor killing? The Search for Answers in the Tragic Death of Shaima Alawadi, Karen Leslie Hernandez
Iraqi woman fatally beaten in Calif. had fled Saddam’s Iraq
Iraqi woman brutally beaten in Calif. will be buried in Iraq
Islam and Honor Killings. By Imam Zaid Shakir
Interfaith Group Takes New Approach to Domestic Abuse, Rebecca Rosen Lum
Islam and Honor Killings, Imam Zaid Shakir 
Islamic Perspective on “Honor Killings” and domestic violence, MWL
Fatwa against domestic abuse by Sheikh Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah
Aasiya Zubair Hassan, Domestic Violence and Islam, Pamela K. Taylor
Honor Killings, Mohammed Fadel PhD, JD
ISCC affiliated Imams Issue Important Fatwa on Honor Killings Misogyny and Domestic Violence
Just Another Honor Killing in the News, Nancy Shehata
The Killing of Aasiya Hassan:  An Open Letter to the Leaders of American Muslim Communities, Imam Mohamed Hagmagid Ali
Khutbah by Sh. Hamza Yusuf 
Killing of Iraqi Woman Leaves Immigrant Community Shaken

Jessica Mokdad Human Rights Conference - Islamophobes Unite Against US Muslims  - Geller & Spencer’s reprehensible attack on Imam Qazwini  -  Anti-Islam activists to rally in Dearborn today; local Muslims reject conference’s message  - Leaders of Sunday’s Anti-Islam Conference Slam Dearborn Imam - Dead Muslim women as opportunities, Sana Saeed

Moving beyond the slogans, Asma Uddin
In the name of honor, Zeenat Umar

Murder of Aasiya Hassan: - American Muslims Call For Swift Action Against Domestic Violence, Dr. Hesham Hassaballa  -  PFP Condemns Beheading of Aasiya Hassan, Wife of Bridges TV Founder

Muslim Advocacy Network Against Domestic Violence
Muslim Women, Domestic Violence and the Role of Education and Awareness Programs, Altaf Husain, MSW, LSW,_domestic_violence_and_education.htm
Muslims Against Domestic Violence
Muslims are Speaking Out Against Domestic Violence…But is Anybody Listening?
Muslims Working Against Domestic Violence, Imam Johari Abdul Malik
Muslim Council of Britain statement against honor killings
Muslim Women’s League Position Paper on “Honor Killings” 
National Center on Domestic Violence Faith Based Resources
National Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to Address Violence Against Women 
On the Death of Shaima Alawadi, Justin Raimondo 
Pakistan The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act 2009, Zubeida Mustafa
Peaceful Families Project PFP Condemns Beheading of Aasiya Hassan, Wife of Bridges TV Founder 
Qur’an and Hadith on Right to Fight Against Abuse and Violence 
Reflections on Aasiya Hassan’s Murder and Domestic Violence, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam 
Religion and domestic violence
Religiosity Common Among Mothers Who Kill Children 
Religion and family violence research team
Religion and Domestic Violence 
Reflections on Aasiya Hassan’s Murder and Domestic Violence, M. Junaid Levesque-Alam 
Rifqa, the Reverend and apostasy, Salam al Marayati
The shame of honor killings in the Muslim world, Hesham Hassaballa
Slowly, Muslims Wake Up To The Reality Of Domestic Violence, Shahed Amanullah
Robert Spencer & Pamela Geller Turn Another Tragedy Into an anti-Muslim Hate Fest, Sheila Musaji
Statistics on domestic violence
Statistics on Family Violence Among Muslims
Strong in Faith and Numbers, Interfaith Domestic Violence Coalition Plans Capitol Hill Briefing 
Teen’s death prompts imam to go on hunger strike
There is no honor in domestic violence, Sikander Ziad Hashmi—there-is-no-honour-in-domestic-violence
This cruel sickness, Saraji Umm Zaid
Turning the Tragedy of Aasiya Zubair Hassan into Action, Daisy Khan
What does Islam say about domestic violence?
Who’s Afraid of Shariah?, Sumbul Ali Karamali
Why Muslim Families Should Be Free of Domestic Violence (brochure)
Wife Abuse in the Muslim Community, Kamran Memon 
Women in chains, Irfan Yusuf