Sunday, April 01, 2012

Death of Shaima Alawadi: Jump to no conclusions . . .

Shaima Alawadi

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.

"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.

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 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.

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At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not all murders of Muslim women by their kinfolk qualify as honor killings. There is no indication here that the woman was unfaithful or did anything to shame her family. Men kill their partners around the world for many reasons. Reading the account of the wife's cousin, however, suggests a conspiracy among her male relatives, which is characteristic of honor killings.

Unfortunately, the damage has already been done with this story publicized around the world. If the husband and other family members are arrested, Muslims will disbelieve the evidence.


At 12:25 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

We don't know all the facts yet, but the family had recently moved to San Diego from Michigan, so one would have to look there for evidence of past problems.

In every killing of a wife, the husband is the first suspect, as you know, but I'm waiting to hear the facts first.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps this cousin was speaking to Al Arabia news in his own language. I, personally, have no real desire to learn the language. When passed notes with it written on it, I usually walk a cross the street and leave in in their cash register in hopes that the super-duper "brown-skinned" dude with the security encoded plates will drop by and pick it up.

Shamrocks were never really all that lucky for me anyway...blarney!

At 2:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, you don't sound quite like Sonagi, but thanks for the passing along that mystifying note . . .

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The plot thickens. Police have stated that the note found by the daughter is a copy, not an original, and the daughter received a suspicious text message while being interviewed, warning her that the detectives would find out and not to talk. It is also reported that the mother planned to get a divorce and move to Texas and her daughter did not want to enter into an arranged marriage with a cousin. The police making statements implicating the family suggests they are close to filing charges. The father and kids are still in Iraq. Dad has been unemployed for years while living off assistance; since he doesn't work for a living, he can remain in Iraq to fight a possible extradition request. Meanwhile, well-meaning women around the world are posting photos and videos of themselves wearing headscarves. Wonder how they will memorialize Mrs. Alawadi if it turns out she was merely another victim of domestic violence.


At 6:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If it turns out to be an honor killing, I propose that those well-meaning women post videos of themselves ripping their headscarves off in a protest against honor killings.

I had just seen the new reports this morning and was planning to blog on these new developments tomorrow morning.

I had an inkling that Ms. Alawadi might be seeking a divorce from her husband, but the report that the daughter may have had a boyfriend complicates the issue, for she reportedly didn't want to marry her cousin. I'm not sure whose motive would have been at work here.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mostly female commenters at the FB Page One Million Hijabs aren't exactly ripping them off, but the consensus is that the killing appears to be domestic violence, not a hate crime. If daughter Fatima was caught in a compromising position with a young man, then I can't imagine she would have a bright future in Iraq.


At 5:26 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

In Iraq, since this is a case of infidel versus believer, the daughter's role -- if any -- will be whitewashed.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the daughter reported at the hospital that she was being forced to marry a cousin.
why do people believe the daughter? she seems to be a drama queen eager to get away from parental control. she could have made the forced marriage story up to escape her parents' control. she's caught in some 'compromising' situation by the police and, on the ride home with her mother, says 'i love you, mom.' and jumps out of a car going 35mph. she's not a very believable person.

i sd wait for the investigation, but i'm guessing it was the daughter's boyfriend with a crowbar in the living room. neither a hate crime nor an honor crime, but possibly the most loathsome crime of matricide. and it probably happens in every religious group. you cannot blame either islam or islamophobia for this that. i doubt this family will ever return to the usa. i hope the true murderer gets justice.

the people who are jumping to conclusions by presenting this as a hate crime are at least doing this out of a motive of examining racism, prejucice, etc and doing something about it. on the other hand, the people who are jumping on 'honor killing' are doing it to justify 'racism' against islam and all muslims. those people have killed their own honor. i think they are the 'honor killers'.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You may be correct about the boyfriend's role, if he turns out to be the person reported as running from the Alawadi residence.

But let's wait until the details are all in and be cautious about our speculations since this is such a sensitive case.

Jeffery Hodges

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