Death of Shaima Alawadi: Jump to no conclusions . . .
An Iraqi-American woman was murdered recently in San Diego, and the case is garnering a lot of attention, but some Muslims and non-Muslims are too quickly jumping to conclusions, a number of the former (along with some non-Muslims, let it be noted) citing Islamophobia and a number of the latter (along with some Muslims, perhaps) claiming an honor killing.
Those citing Islamophobia point to a note left with the dying woman, the message stating words to the effect of 'Go back where you came from, you terrorist!' If confirmed as authentic, this note would make the attack a crime motivated by hate grounded in prejudice, what is sometimes labeled a hate crime.
Those claiming an honor killing point out that the glass door through which the murderer presumably entered appears smashed from the inside since the shards are scattered out over the grass outside, and they add that the murderer's note is therefore a cover-up. They also think that the words of the seventeen-year-old daughter, who is said to have discovered her dying mother, sound insincere, but I'm not very good at evaluating that sort of thing, so judge for yourself.
We'll have to wait for the official police report to learn all of the facts, but those claiming that Shaima Alwadi's death is an honor killing point to something else as well, an Al Arabiya News interview with the family by Kamal Kobeissi, "Family of murdered Iraqi-American woman recounts story of brutal attack," in which -- as the article title states -- the family describes the attack, in the words of the murdered woman's cousin Hussein Alwadi:
He said the murderer snuck into the house on Wednesday morning from the back garden.Many non-Muslims (and possibly some Muslims), understandably enough, have asked how the family could know so much about the murder if no one witnessed these details. Being a naturally skeptical individual, I also wondered, but as a careful skeptic, I turned my jaundiced eye on my own skepticism and asked myself how the family might be in a position to know.
"The garden has no fence so he was able to break the glass of the kitchen window right away and apparently he did so without making a noise."
Hussein added that the attacker then reached for the window handle, opened it, and got inside.
"He did so after watching Shaima's husband drive away with four of the children he was taking to school. Only Shaima and her eldest daughter Fatima stayed in the house. Fatima was asleep."
The murderer, Hussein recounted, saw Shaima in the dinning room and attacked her with an iron rod or a spanner.
"He first hit her on her forehead then on her right ear. The third strike was on the back of her head. This was followed by five fast and consecutive strikes on her head and shoulders."
Shaima, Hussein said, lost consciousness, upon which the attacker left the house.
The woman was attacked on March 21, 2012 (Wednesday) and was taken off life support on March 24, 2012 (Saturday). On March 27, 2012 (Tuesday), the interview took place. I see from another report, "Iraqi Woman Fatally Beaten in El Cajon Home" (San Diego 6 News), that by March 31, 2012 (Saturday), at latest, "Police . . . sealed the coroner[']s report about the death" of Shaima Alwadi, but I haven't yet found what date the coroner conducted the postmortem autopsy. If the autopsy too place on the 24th, 25th, or 26th, then the family might have learned the details of the attack and been able to recount the scenario in that interview of March 27.
I would expect, normally, that the coroner's report in such cases would be immediately sealed, with only those officials investigating the crime informed, but I don't actually know the official proceedure, and even if the official process entails keeping the family uninformed, one can't discount the possibility that the official steps were not followed.
For what it's worth, my impression is that the cousin's description of the attack does sound more like a coroner's report than the report of an eyewitness -- too precise, detailed, and specific -- for what eyewitness would be counting the exact number of blows rapidly struck to the head and shoulders? Do witnesses keep count of such things? I don't know.
I therefore suggest that we all wait, and hesitate to pronounce judgment before all the facts are in.