Hate motive in Alawadi case unraveling

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EL CAJON — A leaked search warrant mistakenly released by a superior court staff person seems to show that the hate crime motive behind the recent killing of an Iraqi woman may not have been triggered by racial intolerance or religious prejudice, after all, but by internal family turmoil.

Two weeks ago, The East County Californian published an editorial entitled “Is the media hoping for a hate crime,” in which the case for another motive in the beating death of Iraqi woman Shaimi al Alawadi, 32, in her El Cajon home on March 21,
was made.

EL CAJON — A leaked search warrant mistakenly released by a superior court staff person seems to show that the hate crime motive behind the recent killing of an Iraqi woman may not have been triggered by racial intolerance or religious prejudice, after all, but by internal family turmoil.

Two weeks ago, The East County Californian published an editorial entitled “Is the media hoping for a hate crime,” in which the case for another motive in the beating death of Iraqi woman Shaimi al Alawadi, 32, in her El Cajon home on March 21,
was made.

A “threatening” note was discovered by El Cajon police detectives near Alawadi’s body.

And while most of the media and other community groups jumped on the note as proof that she was killed by a racist, the police continued to investigate other possibilities.

And, with the news that Alawadi, the mother of five, including a 17-year old daughter, Fatima al Himidi, was planning a to divorce her husband (blank documents were located in her automobile), Kassim Alhimidi, and move to Texas, the crime moved from a random killing of a Muslim woman to something seemingly much more personal and sinister.

The editorial suggested that the note was a red herring and that it was most likely committed by a family member or an acquittance as either an “honor killing” or a personal vendetta.

No other media outlet considered that possibility, however, and continued to taint El Cajon and the East County as a harbor for intolerance and hatred of foreigners.

“I sensed from the beginning that it was very uncharacteristic for a person from El Cajon to have participated in a crime such as this,” said city councilman Gary Kendrick.

“Most of us get along really well and have welcomed all kinds of cultures to this area. We are a melting pot.”

ECPD records also indicate that Fatima al Alawadi was to be forced to marry a cousin against her will and had an altercation with her mother on Nov. 3, 2011, in which the girl lept from a moving vehicle after the girl was reportedly caught by police with a 21-year old man.

After the victim was removed from life support on March 24, the body was hastily prepared and flown to Iraq for burial. The husband and several family members, including Fatima, are still in that country.

The case not only ignited the local press to label this case as a hate crime, but the national media, as well.

Stories on CNN, MSNBC and other affiliates also tried to connect the Alawadi murder with the Trayvon Martin case in Florida, despite scant evidence that either was a premeditated crime committed because of racial motivations.

(Martin, a 17-year old, was shot to death by a volunteer neighborhood watchman, George Zimmerman, who claimed self-defense. That case is still a hot-button issue, and Zimmerman has yet to be arrested or charged as yet)

“There is a hate crime problem in El Cajon,” says Basma Coda, an Iraqi-American who works at the Chaldean-Middle Eastern Social Services.

“We have documented six physical attacks since 2007 in which Iraqi refugees were beat up and had broken bones. All had to go the hospital.

“They were all over 50, and one was a 75-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease.”

Despite these accusations, the El Cajon police department has never corroborated these alleged crimes.

“Sensationalism sells newspaper and enhances TV and radio ratings,” Kendrick said. “If this was a killing by the woman’s family or someone she knew, it would not be big news or the international sensation this story has become.

Kendrick was also interviewed for the case by the Wall Street Journal, but only three sentences during the 45-minute session were used in the piece.

“An innocent woman is dead and the good name of this city has been besmirched,” he added. “Now, people are left with the wrong impression of El Cajon and these are just some of the many sad things about this whole situation.”

Nine days after the beating, records indicated that witnesses described a “darker-skinned male in his late teens to early 20s” fleeing the scene at about 10:30 a.m. (about 40 minutes before Fatima al Alawadi reported the incident).

The man she was with in the November incident, Rawnaq Yacub, is 21 years of age.

A recent Salon.com article has called those who are skeptical of the hate crime motive “Islamophobes,” and that they are using the family turmoil news as another reason to hate Muslims.