“Go back to your country, you terrorist.” Those were the words; the words that were branded on Shaima Alawadi as she was beaten severely to death. What she was hearing her attacker say while being victimized, we may never know. But we do know how her attacker perceived her: as a terrorist; a lesser human; an evil presence for the American community. Why? Was it because she had affiliations with organizations like Al Qaeda? Was it because she advocated hatred and mass violence against civilians to achieve a political agenda? Nope. It was because she was an Iraqi Muslim woman who wore a hijab. It was because of Shaima Alawadi’s background that the attacker deemed the fact that she was a mother of five children as irrelevant; and savagely beat her head with a tire iron.
What saddens me is how misinformed the attacker was to consider her a terrorist for her heritage. Because of the constant media portrayal of terrorism and the Muslim World being perceived as intertwined, the attacker assumed Shaima Alawadi was a terrorist. If the attacker had known the true definition of terrorism, maybe he/she would have realized that she is not a terrorist.
That draws upon the question of how to profile a terrorist and define terrorism. According to Debating Terrorism and Counterterrorism by Stuart Gottlieb, it can be defined as the use of violence by non-state actors against noncombatants to achieve political gains. There have been no reports whatsoever on Shaima Alawadi using violence for political gains. In other words; the attacker’s perception of Shaima Alawadi is not only inaccurate but his overall actions and motives require evaluation.
The attacker used severe violence against an innocent civilian and wrote a note stating that an Arab Muslim American should go back to her country. If the attacker believed that Shaima Alawadi should go back to “her country” for her Iraqi Muslim background, it can be assumed that he/she believes that all people of Muslim or Middle Eastern background are terrorists and should leave the United States and be subject to exile and deportation. In other words, by assaulting Ms. Alawadi, the attacker was sending the political message to not only her family, but members of all Middle Eastern and Muslim communities of the United States to leave the country. For all we know, there have been no reports as of yet indicating the attacker is unaffiliated with government agencies, or even who the attacker is. So when we evaluate this assault and consider the equation: the attacker is a non-state actor that inflicted violence on an innocent civilian to send a political statement intimidating the American Muslim and Arab communities. In other words, this attacker’s actions can be categorized as acts of terrorism, making him/her a terrorist.
Another observation made is that this tragedy draws upon the question of what is an American. According to sources, Shaima Alawadi is a Shiite Muslim who was forced to flee Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s brutal oppression against Shias in 1993. Since around the mid 1990s, Shaima Alawadi and her family lived in the United States. Her decision to take refuge in the United States from Saddam Hussein’s oppression in Iraq was the perfect example of the American Dream. Some individuals from Ms. Alawadi’s family are also reported to have contributed to US intelligence. Reports have indicated that two of Shaima’s brothers and her husband have served as cultural advisers to the United States Army in the War in Iraq. After hearing these reports, one must consider how much more American can a person be?
Last but not least, what is most upsetting is the effect the tragedy had on the family of Shaima Alawadi, particularly her children. The message her 17 year old daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, sent to the terrorist was: “You took my mother away from me. You took my best friend away from me. Why? Why did you do it?” Ms. Alawadi now cannot attend her children’s graduation, wedding, nor can she ever see her first grandchild: thanks to ignorant acts of terrorism.
In conclusion, this was an act of tragic terrorism against Shaima Alawadi. Like terrorists from all groups in their violent political endeavors, this attacker failed to acknowledge the consequences of his/her actions before making the decision. The terrorist did not realize that by severely beating Ms. Alawadi to death, they are depriving her children of the privilege of having a mother, a friend, a guardian. They did not realize that they are rendering the very American dream they sought to defend in attacking her as worthless and a delusion because this attack may cause Muslim Americans and Muslims around the world, to feel threatened to be in the United States because of being Muslim. The terrorist failed to realize that he/she not only terrorized Shaima Alawadi, but also her family, local community, Muslims of America and from all around the world. Well let this be a message to the terrorists and the overall American Islamophobic population: just like the Italians, Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Blacks, Latinos, Jews and various ethnic groups that have migrated here and faced discontent from society; Muslims will continue to migrate here and we are here to stay. If what you fear is the spread of terrorism, start by not engaging in terrorism.
Rest in peace Shaima Alawadi.
Innalillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Radhi-un
“Who, when a misfortune overtakes them, say: ‘Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return’.” (Quran 2:156)
Stuart Gottlieb; Debating Terrorism and Counterterrorism
Inside Terrorism by Bruce Hoffman can prove useful too.
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