Hoodies or Hijabs – What’s the Difference? Neither Should Get You Killed

5 years ago

A Muslim mother of five was killed inside her home last week, while wearing clothing that covered her head, a note filled with racial slurs left next to her body.

Sound familiar? The similarities between the shooting of Trayvon Martin and the bludgeoning death of 32-year old Shaima Alawadi are disturbing. Alawadi’s murder may even be a more blatant hate crime than Martin’s – the mother of five was killed in her dining room, with a note reading

“Go back to your country, you terrorist.”

Like Martin’s death, news of her killing went relatively unnoticed at first, but when it the social media, it spread quickly, spawning hashtags such as #MillionHijabsMarch and prompting many women – Muslim or not -- to post photos of themselves wearing head coverings on Twitter and Facebook.

A group of students at the University of North Carolina quickly organized a Million Hijab March. Hoodies and Hijabs became a growing meme on blogs, Twitter and tumblr. A Facebook page for One Million Hijabs for Shaima Alawadi has gained over 8000 fans.


As I researched Alawadi’s death, I found comments on right wing sites suggesting that her death was at the hands of someone in her family, and that the note was merely a cover up for an honor killing.

Even the mainstream media quickly jumped on this case to suggest there is not going to be widespread public outrage for Alawadi’s death, and while supporters of Trayvon Martin were able to gather hundreds of people for a Million Hoodie March in New York and and another protest Florida, the talk of a Million Hijab March is just talk. Yesterday Nina Burleigh published an op-ed piece Where Are The Protests Against the Killing of Shaima Al Awadi? on the TIME magazine website, suggesting that because Alawadi was a hijab wearing Muslim Iraqi immigrant, America is simply not ready to embrace her cause the way we might be willing to support a more clearly marginalized group such as young black men.

I don’t think Burleigh meant to justify the public complacency over the Alawadi’s death or to suggest that the life of a Muslim woman was not as valuable as the life of a young black man, but she pointed out some uncomfortable truths about race in America.

It’s not as simple as black and white.

And when a racial issue is not just a matter of black and white, people don't know exactly how to react.

Still numerous people on Twitter took Burleigh to task for pitting Trayvon Martin against Shaima Alawadi:

Whether or not Alawadi’s death is investigated as a hate crime is still being looked into by San Diego County prosecutors, but in my mind a note left next to someone’s dead body saying “Go back to your country, you terrorist” speaks as loudly as a voice on a 911 tape calling someone a “f-cking coon” right before firing a shot.

What do you think? Is the killing of a Muslim woman being treated differently than the killing of a black youth?

Race and Ethnicity Section Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs at HapaMama and A Year (Almost) Without Shopping.

This is an article written by one of the incredible members of the SheKnows Community. The SheKnows editorial team has not edited, vetted or endorsed the content of this post. Want to join our amazing community and share your own story? Sign up here.

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