Jewish Journal


April 15, 2012

Shaima Alawadi murder no longer a hate crime?


I missed a big development in the death of Shaima Alawadi. (Thanks to George for pointing it out.) When news broke last month that the mother of five had died after being beaten to death in her home, one detail of the crime scene garnered international attention and sent a shockwave through Muslim immigrant communities:

The note found next to her body reportedly said: “Go back to your own country. You’re a terrorist.”

But as the police conducted their investigation, new details emerged, as this piece from Salon reports:

On April 4, an affidavit for a search warrant about the murder was “accidentally released,” according to the New York Times. The San Diego Union-Tribune, which first received the document, claimed it shows a “family in turmoil and cast doubt on the likelihood that her slaying was a hate crime.” Alawadi was said to be planning on leaving her husband, based on blank divorce papers found in her vehicle. Last November, police investigating reports of two people possibly having sex in a car found Fatima with a 21-year-old man. After her mother was called to pick her up, Fatima allegedly jumped out of the moving car at 35 mph. While being treated at a hospital for her injuries the court records state, “Police were informed by paramedics and hospital staff that Fatima Alhimidi said she was being forced to marry her cousin and did not want to do so she jumped out of the vehicle.”

KGTV further reported that while Fatima was being interviewed by investigators, she received a text message that read, “The detective will find out tell them cnt (can’t) talk.”

It’s now a lot less clear whether police are investigating a hate crime or a collapsing family. (“Collapsing” doesn’t seem to do it justice but I can’t think of anything extreme enough to convey family dynamics that could be so broken as to motivate matricide.) The latter, like the Muslim TV exec who beheaded his wife because she wanted a divorce, would make Alawadi’s death more a crime against women, Nina Burleigh writes for Time:

If female freedom turns out to be at the heart of the murder, it will highlight not so much the intolerance of Muslim immigrants by Americans, but the cultural restrictions on women in those communities and what happens when those restrictions clash with the relatively permissive rules of Western society.

That remains to be seen.

As for Fatima and Alawadi’s husband: They were last in Iraq, where they traveled for her burial.

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