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Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old Iraqi woman, mother of five, died last Saturday after being on life support from a beating three days earlier. She was left brutally beaten in the living room of her Southern California home with an apparently xenophobic- anti-Muslim- racist note beside her.

Shaima Alawadi lived in an Iraqi community, where there are 50-60,000 immigrants from the Middle East. The note left said she was a terrorist and to go home.

Police have said they are examining this death as a possible hate crime and that this was an isolated incident. Barring the possibility that a family member, like her partner, killed her, with a note left beside her saying she is a terrorist, this looks like a hate crime.

I only suggest murder by a family member is a possibility because women are so frequently hurt and killed by intimate partners that this would be a way to kill her and make it look like a hate crime by someone else targeting Muslims. Not to mention, it is unclear why Shaima Alawadi was the target for violence of the many Middle Eastern people in the community. Why her?

That said, the Associated Press reports that “there were 1,409 hate crimes nationwide based on religion during 2010, including 186 targeting Muslims.” That number probably wasn’t very different in 2011 and building in 2012. There were 1,040 hate crimes in 2010 “based on ethnicity or national origin, including 359 targeting groups other than Hispanics.” So, on the other hand, why not her?

Anti- Muslim racism is out there and the hijab does less and less to shield women from dangerous men.

The FBI defines a hate crime as “an offense motivated by a bias against race, religion, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation.” Note that this does not include gender. There would be far too many hate crimes to process if gender were included because women are beaten, raped, and killed too often in this nation by men who say they love them or at the very least, know them. In my mind, men beating, raping, and killing women constitute a bias against women.

Whether it was a hate crime or not is unclear at this point of the investigation, but with the note alone, it sure looks like one. Many people have been wearing hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin and in protest of Zimmerman having not been arrested for shooting him, but with the possibility that the murder of Shaima Alawadi was a hate crime in mind, the link between the hoodie and the hijab was also made.

Speaking strictly of the hijab and of head coverings worn for religious reasons, not necessarily whether Shaima Alawadi’s murder was a hate crime or not, Muslim Women are more identifiable (in general and to racist violent people) because they wear a hijab.

Stemming from religious faiths, women covering their bodies has been a way to protect women from unwanted and possibly dangerous attention from men. This very attention that the hijab and other clothing meant to protect women has intended to ward off, has also, in many cases made the women targets of violence.


There are two main reasons behind this.
One: the hijab identifies women as Muslim and under Patriarchy in the United States, the ideal Patriarch is a white Christian male, so anyone Muslim doesn’t fit the mold and women especially do not. Patriarchy is designed to only uphold the ideal, all others are tools to aid in upholding that ideal.

Two: women are not easily objectified with the hijab on because it covers their hair and bodies. Men are conditioned in the U.S. to hate women but to also want them to objectify them. Not all men fall prey to this, but it is the conditioning so they can be over women in the Patriarchy and uphold men.

Some Muslim women wear the hijab and others don’t. Some wear just a head scarf while others cover their entire bodies and faces. Some Muslim women argue that the Qur’an commands them to cover their heads and others argue that it is to be interpreted and modesty is in the mind. Some Muslim women argue that the hijab puts them in more danger because it makes them stand out. Still other say that it liberates them because they are not objectified and can be seen for who they really are and have their ideas heard because people are not distracted by their looks.

Some Muslims say the Prophet Muhammad said that if a woman doesn’t follow the rules of Islamic dress, her place in paradise, along with her husband’s, father’s’ and sons’ places in paradise, will be jeopardized. So a woman may want to make a decision about her dress that the men worry would affect their place in paradise, which inevitably forces her to make a decision she might not have originally made.

Religious head coverings are not uncommon and though Muslim women have been sometimes looked down upon for wearing them ((for reasons which are unclear- possibly because of lack of education, possibly because people think they are strange, possibly because people believe Muslim women are forced to wear them (which is only the case in countries where it is law), possibly because of fear of difference or belief of other religions being of the devil), they are worn throughout many faiths.

In Judeo-Christian culture, nuns and Jewish people have also covered their heads in the past and still do. For Jewish people, the yarmulke is a reminder that God is above them and a sign of their devotion to God. Nuns used to wear head coverings more often, though don’t as often nowdays, which I was under the impression was because it makes them easier targets for violence, though I have found no evidence on the internet that this is the reason why they don’t seem to cover their heads as much today.

In Corinthians 11 (3-10), it is suggested women cover themselves because they are inferior, where as the Qur’an says women should cover themselves so they can be recognized, but won’t be bothered with unwanted advances by men.

From the Bible: 1 Corinthians 3-10 (KJV)
3But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
4Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.5But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
6For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
7For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
8For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man.
9Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
10For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

From the Qur’an: Allah says: ‘O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) over their bodies (when outdoors). That is most convenient that they should be known and not molested.’ (S33:59). In the above Ayaah there is an evidence that the recognition of the apparent beauty of the woman is harmful to her. When the cause of attraction ends, the restriction is removed. This is illustrated in the case of elderly women who may have lost every aspect of attraction. Allah (swt) made it permissible for them to lay aside their outer garments and expose their faces and hands reminding, however, that is still better for them to keep their modesty.”

The hijab is a covering worn by women as part of the Muslim faith and in some places, like Saudi Arabia, it is not a choice but mandated. If it is a woman’s choice to wear a hijab, that is very different than if it is not.

If the hijab is meant to hide women from the eyes of men who might catch glimpses of her and think unpure thoughts as I think it is, from what I have read, what about men needing to take responsibility for their feelings and how they act on them. If a man is sexually excited by the sight of a woman, I would argue in part that it is normal and in part, women have been sexualized.

Is it a woman’s fault she has been objectified and sexualized and that this puts her in danger? Absolutely not.

Is the hijab to protect women from unwanted sexual advances from men or is it to protect men from seeing women and being tempted. I’m not sure.

Though a hijab can identify a woman as a Muslim, I’m not going to blame a murder on a hijab. There are other huge reasons that Muslim women are targets of violence in the U.S. An Iraqi woman is seen as the enemy because Iraq is seen as the enemy as there is a military occupation in Iraq at present. But all women of the world and women in the United States are at risk of being killed based on their sex and gender. Hijab or no hijab.

RIP Shaima Alawadi. May justice be served for your murder. Condolences to those who loved you. 

Grrl Code: Condemn the killing of people based on gender, religious practice, skin color, culture, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, and dress.