The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

California Mother Slain in Possible Anti-Muslim Hate Crime

By Bill Morlin on March 26, 2012 - 2:08 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Hate Crime

The weekend death in California of a 32-year-old Iraqi immigrant – a mother of five children — is drawing worldwide attention as the latest possible U.S. hate crime killing.

Shaima Alawadi died Saturday after she was taken off life support, three days after being found unconscious and brutally beaten in her family home in El Cajon, a suburb of San Diego, authorities said.

The victim’s 17-year-old daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, told San Diego’s KUSI-TV that her mother was beaten on the head with a tire iron and a threatening note was found nearby saying, “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”

“We’re not the terrorists, you are,” the daughter said in a video posted on YouTube.  She and her mother both followed the Muslim practice of covering their heads with hijabs.

The family immigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s and lived in Michigan before recently moving to El Cajon, which has a large population of Iraqi and Kurdish immigrants. The victim had become a naturalized U.S. citizen, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The family received a similar threatening note earlier this month, but did not report it to authorities, El Cajon Police Lt. Mark Coit said in a press release posted on the department’s website. He called the crime an “isolated incident.”

The victim’s husband, Kassim Al Himidi, who has worked for the U.S. military as a cultural advisor, was taking the couple’s younger children to school when the assault occurred inside the family home on March 21.

“A hate crime is one of the possibilities, and we will be looking at that,” the El Cajon police official told The Associated Press. “We don’t want to focus on only one issue and miss something else.”

Edgar Hopida, a spokesman for the San Diego chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Hatewatch that while the beating death has earmarks of a possible hate crime, it’s too early to draw that conclusion with certainty. “It seems from what we know now that it may be hate-motivated, although we’re leaving it to law enforcement to draw that conclusion,” Hopida said.

The CAIR spokesman said the beating death would be a topic of discussion today at a previously scheduled panel discussion at the Thomas Jefferson Law School in San Diego on bias crimes targeting Muslims.

Word of the woman’s death is drawing worldwide attention, largely through social media sites, although it was also on the front page of one newspaper in Great Britain. Some bloggers are drawing comparisons to the Feb. 26 fatal shooting in Sanford Fla., of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed 17-year-old black youth whose death also has captured wide-spread attention. Martin was killed by a white Latino man who told police he was suspicious, in part, because of Martin’s hoodie.

On Twitter, one poster said, “Welcome to America, where you get killed for being suspicious for wearing a hoodie and a hajib.”

The Iraqi government will pay to return Alawadi’s body to Iraq where her father, Sayed Nabeel Alawadi, is a Shia cleric, the Detroit newspaper reported.

  • Gazornplotz

    I just plugged “Muslim” into your search engine, and observed every entry that came up.
    It seems that your only concern is with alleged poor victimized Muslims. Not once do you mention any of the hundreds, yea, thousands of hate crimes perpetrated BY Muslims against Jews, gays, women, girls, Hindus or Buddhists, and the supremacist mentality that discriminates against most any non-Muslim.
    According to this website, Muslims are always the victim of the American system.
    This leads me to think that SPLC is naught but a front group for the Muslim Brotherhood, and should be investigated by a Congressional committee for sedition.
    Unless you can convince me otherwise, I shall use my influence to make that happen.

  • Reynardine

    There is some possibility, at this point, that the note may have been a red herring, but the identity of the killer is no more clear.

  • Reynardine

    I would add, Radia (since I don’t know where you are) that you can go online to the National Lawyers’ Guild. They can likely refer you to a Guild lawyer in your area. Have ready whatever evidence you could gather by the means I suggested, along with the evidence and testimony of other people threatened as you are. If your community has been affected by the selective nonprotection of the authorites, there may be a class action in it. If others are afraid to go with you, get their affidavited exhibits.

  • Andy

    “We’re not the terrorists, you are.”

    Amen – truer words were never spoken.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    Radia, I would suggest calling up the local media if the police aren’t doing anything. Also look up local anti-racist groups in your area. For example there’s and Anti-Racist Action.

  • Reynardine

    Radia, if you report them to the police, get a copy of the complaint. If they won’t take your complaint, log the date and time you made it and to whom. If you are running a business, keep it in your business logs/journals – those are normally admissible in court. Keep a surveillance camera functioning. If a conversation is going south, record it on a cell phone. If it’s not legal to do it in your state…why, it was one of those butt things, or you were recording birdcalls or taping music when the perp strolled in. If there’s a pattern and practice in your community of police blowing off threats or silencing complaints, get others to do as much.

  • Radia

    Similar threats had been coming to my son’s business, and we did report to the police, but nothing was done. How can any one say that it was her fault not to report the threats. Even if the threats are reported, nothing is done to find the culprits by the police. What kind of a safety is this?

  • Reaper081087

    As an Anti-theistic Atheist, I hate the religion of Islam. Let me make myself clear that WHILE I HATE THE RELIGION ITSELF, I DO NOT HATE MUSLIMS. Even though, I do not like their religions, Muslims are people, just like the rest of us. Falsely suspecting an unarmed Muslim woman to be a terrorist and killing her especially without out ANY evidence that she has any connection to them is DESPICABLE! Any threats to security would be much better taken care of by professionals like cops, FBI, SWAT, other law enforcements.

  • Reynardine

    I would add that headscarves have been worn by Russian women, by female Chicagoans who don’t want to chase hats down the windy streets, by women with haircolor jobs they were trying to shield from the sun, as fashion statements, and by South Asian women of all faiths, who wear the dupatta with qamiz and shalwar. Some traditional churches still require them during service. The idea that wearing such an item could get a woman beaten to death is pretty blood-curdling.

  • Reynardine

    At this point, I second Ruslan. When anyone is found with their head beaten in, they didn’t “just die”. Malice aforethought has to be assumed from the circumstances, and I doubt anyone is going to make a showing of self-defense or chaude melée to rebut it. Though the note could be a red herring, until proven to be one, it does raise the prospect that this is a hate crime. Nor should we be ready to assume that every time a murder victim is a Muslim woman, it is an honor killing, any more than we should assume that a female victim from another group wasn’t such a victim. Factually, most of the women murdered in the United States are murdered by men they know well, and if they had been Muslims, it would have been quickly labelled “honor killing”.

  • ModerateMike

    You can bet that the Fox propaganda machine will not lose the opportunity to attack progressive organizations for attempting to smear the right if the police determine that the suspect’s motives were not related to an anti-Muslim or anti-Arab bias. As it is, they are probably already contemplating a headline like “SPLC blames Conservatives for Death of Muslim Woman.”

  • ModerateMike

    “Someone dies and automatically it’s hate.”

    SPLC said no such thing. As you can see in the article, SPLC mentioned that both the El Cajon police and CAIR have not drawn any conclusions yet. Even the title of the article says as much.

  • Ruslan Amirkhanov

    “It smells like an honor killing disguised as a “hate crime”.

    Smells like an idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking what he’s talking about.

    “Someone dies and automatically it’s hate. Build up your funds with scare tactics splc”

    She didn’t “die”, she was beaten to death, left for dead next to a note that said “Go back to your country.” Sounds like a hate crime.

  • CriticalDragon1177

    Bill Morlin,

    I heard about this over at Loon Watch. Its really sad. I just hope they catch the guy responsible. My heart goes out to her surviving family members. I won’t blame them if they’re angry.

  • Tyrant

    Someone dies and automatically it’s hate. Build up your funds with scare tactics splc

  • Attila

    It smells like an honor killing disguised as a “hate crime”.

  • jasim almusawi

    I think the hate against muslim became wide spread thank to media like fox news and hanity and coma they alway insight the hatre against muslim .I EXECPT more hate attack against muslim world wide.BECUSE MUSLIM BEING STROTYPE AS TERORIST BY THE MEDIA

  • ladybug96

    we r doing a project in my class about tolerance and everything that is happening here and around the world and most kids don’t really no whats going on. we r very sheltered and before we did this project i didn’t even no that this kind of stuff happened its ubsered. in my head we shouldnt have to do projects like this because this shouldnt be happening.

  • Reynardine

    God, this is sorry-ass. Who is the brave soul who beat to death an aging woman? And the fact that this family did not feel they could report the earlier threat to the police is not a good sign.