Iraqi-born Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, was brutally beaten with a tire iron and was left laying in her blood. She was found by her daughter and a note that read: “Go back to your country, you terrorist." She was pronounced dead. But, Shaima’s death has still not been regarded as a hate crime.
Shaima makes headlines alongside Trayvon Martin. News of their deaths has filled our inboxes and Facebook walls. They have finally united our community, but someone had to die in the process. I am not Trayvon and I am not Shaima. I am just someone who has read their story, and is trying to make sense of its purpose.
Muslims believe that death is written, and every decision by God has a purpose. Here, the link between Shaima and Trayvon must teach us that beyond their stories, their purpose was to teach us that hatred and racism is real. This is a social martyrdom, without the rifles, bears, and desert backdrop we frequently hear about. This is a different kind of war, a social one that has brought attention to the underlying reasons Shaima and Trayvon died.
Because the facts in both of these cases are still developing, it is not necessary to talk about gun laws, race issues, and other background information in retrospect. Rather, we should discuss that Trayvon and Shaima died because of their identities.
Shaima was not a stranger to America. Her name was foreign indeed, as was her “look,” but her smile was a universal trait, and now her children, husband, and community lost someone they loved and cherished. Someone hated a housewife because she was Muslim, an Arab, an outsider, and an enemy. She lay near a note to return home, as she was beaten in her home, yet it is still not being confirmed as a hate crime.
Just like the use of the term “self-defense” in the murder of an unarmed black youth, the hesitation to call Shaima’s murder a hate crime cannot be reconciled.
While the facts are not similar, the outcry is. This is about rights, justice, and peace. Shaima’s story is one that outlines a deep-rooted anti-Muslim rhetoric in the minds of people who misunderstand Islam. We live in a country in which Pamela Geller who suggests that Americans are under siege by a growing Muslim population that will threaten the existence of Americans in the great land of the free. But, what land of the free, may I ask, if Shaima could not sit in her own home without the threat of being murdered for being a Muslim? What land of the free if Trayvon could not buy Skittles without being a suspect, and gunned to death for his skin color. Who is the threat exactly in this land of the free?
Next Tuesday, Rutgers law students will join together by donning hijabs and hoodies to signify solidarity. If we cannot bring Shaima or Trayvon back, we can at least carry on their stories, so law enforcement takes note and America finally see that this revolution is not just being televised, but also revitalized and moralized.
This is about morality and humanity. As an American-Muslim, I stood alongside millions of Muslims around the world to condemn the merciless killings perpetrated by Bin Laden. And today, as an American-Muslim, I still stand with a message: Peace and justice for us, no matter what the color, religion, or creed. Death is death. We must take the time to recognize, understand, and remember the stories of Shaima and Trayvon as our own lives pace on.