The murder of Iraqi immigrant Shaima Alawadi in late March sent ripples of fear through Muslim immigrant communities in the U.S., and internationally, after police announced they were investigating it as a possible hate crime due largely to a hateful note found next to her. But with police evidence now pointing elsewhere, the conversation surrounding Alawadi's death has shifted.
Comment-board discussions beneath news reports that police found a history of family troubles and a potential divorce have ranged from anti-Islamic cracks and talk of "honor killings" to a general dismissal of hate crimes and racial profiling. From one posted under a story in The Blaze by Justpeachy:
Hmm sounds like trying to kill two birds with one stone: a coverup for murder and trying to perpetuate the idea of “violence” against Islam. The left’s favorite dessert, served up–too bad for them the topping’s beginning to melt, just as some of it is on the Zimmerman/Trayvon case...
And it's that conversation that civil rights groups who monitor hate crimes are worried about. In a Q&A last week titled "Hate crime or not, why the killing of Shaima Alawadi carries special weight," Salam Al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles gave his take on why the murder, whoever committed it or why, had resonated how it had, taking place during a time of rising anti-Islamic sentiment. Acknowledging that "it would surprise me if it were a hate crime" because of the brutality involved - the victim was beaten repeatedly on the head - Al-Marayati said deaths needn't occur in order to understand there's a problem. From the interview:
...we don’t need to wait for the bodies to pile up to say there is a problem with Islamophobia. It is an alienation problem, a stigmatization problem, and as with the NYPD spying case a creation of a police state problem. That’s why we say it’s a problem for all Americans that a segment of the American population is being drawn up as a cancerous cell in the human body that must be excised. That is the bigger issue now, in spite of whatever transpired in the home of Shaima.
During a brief phone chat following news of the police reports yesterday, Al-Marayati predicted where the conversation might go next: "Unfortunately, people who were premature in jumping on the hate crime bandwagon, and the bandwagon that Muslims are always crying 'wolf,' will use it as political ammunition against each other," Al-Marayati said. "The anti-Muslim bigots will see this now as a political launching pad to basically try to turn a blind eye and make people deaf to any concerns about Islamophobia, so we should be even more concerned about that."
Police are still investigating and haven't drawn a conclusion, but the reports raise the possibility that the note found next to Alawadi, which according to her family read something along the lines of "go back to your country, you terrorist," may not have been the work of a hate criminal after all. Yet her murder, and the note, have sparked a broad discussion about rising anti-Muslim hate crimes and Islamophobia in general, a conversation that some thought was overdue.
How does the possibility that Shaima Alawadi may have been killed by someone she knew change that conversation, and the need to have it? Thoughts, anyone?