Today’s episode of Faith Complex was conceived in the aftermath of a disturbing crime which has received comparatively little play in the national media.
In broad outline, the case involves the brutal murder of an Iraqi-born American citizen and mother of five, Shaima Alawadi, in her home near San Diego. There are conflicting reports regarding a note found near the victim’s body (Ms. Alawadi died three days after the attack). In some versions, it reads: “This is my country. Go back to yours, terrorist.”
The initial reaction to this matter was that it was a hate crime aimed at a Muslim-American woman whose wearing of the hijab drew conspicuous attention to her identity. As our interviewer and our guest, Dr. Jerusha Lamptey, make clear, however, there is no definitive evidence that this was in fact a hate crime. In recent weeks, commentators have questioned the idea that this was an assault committed in the name of anti-Muslim prejudice, and intriguing subplots have developed.
A couple of questions come to my mind: Whether this was or was not a case of anti-Islamic violence, why have we heard so little about it in comparison with, let’s say, the tragic Trayvon Martin murder? Does the paucity of national media coverage have to do with the increasingly fuzzy circumstances of the case? Or, could it be that journalists are either less interested in, or less skilled in, or less comfortable covering this type of story?
This was the starting point for our discussion with our guest, who is an Assistant Visiting Professor in the Theology Department of Georgetown University. Dr. Lamptey, a convert to Islam, reflects on her experiences wearing the hijab and being deemed “foreign” even though she was born and raised in this country. Raising the possibility that donning the hijab is actually an expression of American values, our guest goes on to recount some of her own encounters with quotidian Islamophobia.
This segment was hosted by Katelyn McNelis (SFS ’15) and produced by Mitchel Hochberg (SFS ’15).