Last week, I read about the absolutely horrific beating of an Iraqi-American mother of five. Only 32 years old, she was found clinging to life with a note next to her body that called her a terrorist and told her to go home to her country.
The media ran with it and activists responded heavily. Linking Alawadi's murder to Trayvon Martin's death, there was a #hoodiesandhijabs campaign on Twitter and solidarity marches at campuses around the country. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands of stories with headlines such as this one from the Daily Mail:
‘One Million Hijabs for Shaima:’ Women worldwide of all faiths post pictures of themselves in headscarves after race hate murder
Reuters ran a story headlined:
Iraqi-American murder highlights anti-Muslim hate crimes
The Daily Beast had it's piece billed as:
Shaima Alawadi’s Brutal Murder Highlights Anti-Muslim Activity in San Diego
The young mother’s killing is the latest in a disturbing increase in anti-Muslim incidents in and around San Diego. Community leaders are asking why, writes Jamie Reno.
I had critiqued these articles over at GetReligion. (See, for example, How to cover a hate crime, Reporting the hate in hate crimes, and A hate-filled non-hate crime?) I argued that journalists should wait for those pesky facts before jumping to conclusions and, further, that skepticism might be called forin the case of a clear-cut hate crime confession note.
Here's the latest from the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five, was apparently planning to divorce her husband and move to Texas when she was killed, a family member told investigators, according to the court documents.
The records obtained at El Cajon Superior Court also reveal Alawadi’s 17-year-old daughter, Fatima Alhimidi, who called 911 to report the attack, was distraught over her pending arranged marriage to a cousin.
A search of Fatima’s cellphone records shows that while she was being interviewed by investigators hours after the attack, someone sent the teen a text message that read, “The detective will find out tell them (can’t) talk,” the affidavit states.
I am curious whether all the activists who thought Alawadi's death had far-reaching consequences and meaning when it was a "hate crime" will think the same if it turns out to be related to a forced marriage or issues of honor. Time will tell.