Eugene Cho

in memory of shaima alawadi: human, daughter, wife, mother, neighbor, sister, friend

Take a long look.

Stare into her eyes.

Stare and Focus.  You’ll see that she’s not that different than you and I.

This is Shaima Alawadi.

  • She is a human being.
  • She is Iraqi. She is American. She is Iraqi-American.
  • She is a neighbor.
  • She is a daughter.
  • She is a mother…of 5 children.
  • She is a wife.
  • She is a friend.
She is also dead. Murdered.
A brief glimpse of her story:

Alawadi moved to the United States in 1993 with her family and was part of a wave of Shiite Muslim refugees who fled to Michigan after Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991.

After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school and became a housewife raising five children, Al-Zayadi said.

Al-Zayadi said Alawadi’s brothers worked for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East. Another family friend told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Alawadi’s husband had a similar job.

Shaima Alwadai, 32, was recently beaten to death – bludgeoned by a tire iron – in her own home in El Cajon (suburb of San Diego). Her body was first discovered by her 17 year old daughter and three days later, was taken off life support.

There was a note next to her body with these words:

“go back to your country, you terrorist”

God have mercy…

  • Take a moment to read her story.
  • Take a moment to stare at her face.
  • Take a moment to remember her name.
  • Take a moment to pray for her family.
And most importantly,

Let’s recommit ourselves:

to mercy, justice, and compassion. Recommit to loving our neighbors. Recommit to advocating, protecting, and building relationships.

As someone that’s heard that phrase countless times – especially as a youngster, “Go back to your country” – May we help build a country (and a world) where all are welcome and safe.

Shalom. 

Here’s the news via CBS News:

EL CAJON, Calif. — A Muslim leader says that the body of an Iraqi-American woman who was found brutally beaten next to a note saying “go back to your country, you terrorist” will be flown to her home country for her funeral.

Shaima Alawadi, 32, was taken off life support on Saturday, three days after her 17-year-old daughter found her unconscious in the dining room of the family’s El Cajon home in suburban San Diego.

Investigators said they’re exploring all aspects of her slaying, including the possibility that the attack was a hate crime.

Alawadi’s father is a Shiite cleric in Iraq and the Iraqi government will pay for have her body sent back, a Muslim leader in Michigan told the Detroit Free-Press on Sunday.

“Everybody is outraged,” Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn said. “This is too evil, too criminal.”

The daughter, Fatima Al Himidi, told KUSI-TV her mother had been beaten on the head repeatedly with a tire iron, and that the note said “go back to your country, you terrorist.”

Police said the family had found a similar, threatening note earlier this month but did not report it to authorities.

Al Himidi told KGTV-TV her mother dismissed the first note, found outside the home, as a child’s prank.

Flowers were piled on the doorstep of the home Sunday. A neighbor said the family had moved in only a few weeks ago.

Friends said Alawadi wore a hijab, the Islamic head scarf.

Hayder Al-Zayadi, a family friend, told the Free-Press Alawadi moved to the United States in 1993 with her family and was part of a wave of Shiite Muslim refugees who fled to Michigan after Saddam Hussein cracked down on an uprising in 1991.

After living in Dearborn for a few years, she moved to the San Diego area in 1996, graduated from high school and became a housewife raising five children, Al-Zayadi said.

Al-Zayadi said Alawadi’s brothers worked for the U.S. Army, serving as cultural advisers to train soldiers who were going to be deployed to the Middle East. Another family friend told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Alawadi’s husband had a similar job.

El Cajon, northeast of downtown San Diego, is home to one of the largest Iraqi communities in the United States.

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28 Responses

  1. Be careful how you assume an American did this to her. She could have been a sacrifice on behalf of raising disention. Brainshashing is a serious matter. Who ever did this is an evil perpetrator of life but just becareful who you blame it on . Such as Tray did anyone notice the media announced the shooter murder was white. Everyone got on the bandwagon of race till they found out the shooter was hispanic. then the media did not correct their error they just said he was white hispanic. What the heck does that mean. It means liberal media is always on the bandwagon to insight race desention. Who through the note. Was there really a note found on her body? You can assume the teller of the story is correct but they were not there. I know of women whos own parents and brothers of Islam religion have beaten and stabbed then and stoned them to death here in this country. Where is their movement. Yeah the 16 year old American girl who did not want to follow in her islamic root a few years back was recorded on her cell phone pleading for her life as her dad and mom were killing her stabbing her. So do NOT assume who this murder could be. Do not assume the note is a viable reliable piece of evidence. test all spirits

  2. Joey McGee says:

    This sucks. How freaking depressing.

  3. kate says:

    All hate crimes are equal!

  4. Kate Green says:

    All hate is equal… only weak people hate.

  5. Darlene says:

    Eugene, thanks for this post and for reminding me that injustice toward ANY ethnicity or culture is worthy of our attention, time and energy. I am not sure what God is doing within me, but I am grateful that he is opening my eyes and my heart to care…

    • Eugene Cho says:

      I hate sharing these kind of posts…

      but they are a reality of our broken world.

      While we may be discouraged by such a broken world, let’s keep faith in the trajectory of shalom and justice. Let’s work with passion, grace, and courage knowing that God will restore all things…

  6. Debbie says:

    I second Darlene’s comment. Thanks Eugene for the post.

  7. ceweston says:

    maybe the same person who got her pregnant at age 15 is somehow responsible. is there a life insurance policy? motive will help us find the killer. we cannot assume anything. leaving a note is like leaving a fingerprint. the note will have to be analyzed in the lab, as will the body. 😦

  8. daniel so says:

    Eugene — Thank you so much for speaking out on Shaima’s behalf and for sharing her story. I am heartbroken and sick over what has happened.

    This hits close to home — El Cajon is just a couple of towns over from our church community here in SD. And I’m very familiar with Dearborn, MI — a suburb close to where I grew up.

    We are all so broken. Christ, have mercy.

  9. Jung-Hoon says:

    What an abomination before the Maker! Lord have mercy on us.

    “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1 Cor 4:7)

  10. Helen Bishop says:

    This is so sad and I am praying for truth and justice. This may or may not be a hate crime (some people are right it could be a set up) but either way it takes an evil person to do that and what about the 17 year old daughter who found her. What a horrible thing for a child to witness. I am praying that they will find the person/persons who did this. If it truly was a hate crime what stupidity to think such a thing.

  11. Why is it always so easy to hate…

  12. ApexNC says:

    I don’t think this was a hate crime, I think this was an honor killing disguised to be a hate crime.
    First of all they moved to an area with lots of other Iraqi’s, the most in the state. 2nd they had been there only a few weeks. If someone wanted to commit a murder b/c they were against terriosim, do you think they would break in and use a tire iron? Everything about this is fishy to me. Whoever broke in, broke a window and beat this poor woman to death and her 17 year old daughter heard nothing? Come on. I know there are some whack jobs out there who believe anyone who is Muslim is a terrorist, but San Diego is a pretty liberal place, and seeing someone wear a shall is not a big shocker to most. Plus, why target her? She has 5 kids and a husband, they’d really have to know everyone’s schedule to make sure they were not home. Lastly, the note. Really? Who was the guy writing to? To the woman he already killed?? Or was it to her remaining family? It really doesn’t make sense. Even the police say they believe it was an isolated incident (ie don’t worry everyone, we’re pretty sure there’s not a murder on the loose running around killing Muslims). They also won’t call it a “hate crime” b/c they are leaving all options open at this point.

  13. Tahsin Chowdhury says:

    Check out my OP-ED on Shaima Alawadi everyone.
    http://global-city.org/2012/03/27/shaima-alawadi-victim-of-islamophobic-terrorism/

    You’ll get a Muslim American’s Point of view on it!

  14. Scott M says:

    “Everybody is outraged,” Imam Husham Al-Husainy of the Karbalaa Islamic Education Center in Dearborn said. “This is too evil, too criminal.”

    Hmm… so very sad and unfortunate that this happened. But what about the way Moslems treat Christians in the middle east, specifically in Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan? So where is the Moslem outrage and the denunciation of hate crimes committed against Christians, their homes, and their churches?

    Of course I’m not saying two wrongs make a right, I just wanted to point out that justice and tolerance is a two way street people.

  15. As we observe this from the outside of the situation, I want to say just one thing: Remember Grace.

  16. human says:

    killing one innocent person is equivalent to killing all man kind
    On that account We ordained for the Children of Isra`il that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear (guidance), yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (5:32)

  17. human says says:

    i hope that person who killed that poor woman dies

  18. human says says:

    but i want him to die in pain for killing that poor incennot

  19. JT says:

    So Eugene, how’s this “hate crime” theory workin’ out for you?

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One Day’s Wages

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As I soaked in this breathtaking sunrise this morning above the clouds, I felt compelled to pray for so my places in America and around the world that are experiencing such pain, heartache, injustice, and violence. At times, it feels so overwhelming but in prayer, I was reminded of these words from John 16:33. As we keep striving, working, hoping, preaching, loving, truthtelling, reconciling, repenting, forgiving, dismantling, peacemaking, Kingdom building...may we fix our eyes on Christ: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33 Grateful for a very full weekend of ministry and preaching in Toronto, Canada (GTA). Such a privilege to partner with @worldvisioncan @wvcollective to advocate for the most vulnerable around the world. God is so gracious. A true honor to meet and encourage local pastors, lecture at Tyndale University & Seminary (photo), and preach at Richmond Hills Community Church, Compass Point Bible Church, and New City Church. Thank you, Lord, that you use broken and imperfect people like me to speak of Your love. Today, Minhee and I dropped off our eldest child at her college. We have been thinking and praying about this day for many years. On some days, we hoped it would never come. On other days, we couldn't wait for it to come. On some days, we prayed for time to stop and other days, we prayed with anticipation. 
After an entire summer of laughing it off, it hit us...hard...this week. Seeing all of her stuff laid out on the basement floor was the catalyst to a load of emotions.

After unloading the car and taking her stuff to her new home for this year and mindful that she might never live with us again; helping sort out her stuff, saying hello to her roommates...I wasn't sure what to do or say.

A flood of thoughts rushed my mind.

Is she ready?
Have we done enough?
Have we taught her enough? 
What if this? What if that?

And so we shared what we have shared with her the moment she began to understand words: "Remember who you are. Remember WHO you belong to. Remember what you're about. God loves you so much. Please hold God's Word and His promises close and dear to your heart. We love you so much and we are so proud of you." And with that, we said goodbye. Even if she may not be thousands of miles away, this is a new chapter for her and even for us. I kept it composed. Her roommate was staring at me. I didn't want to be that father. I have street cred to uphold. Another final hug. 
And I came home.
And I wept.
Forget my street cred.
I miss her. I love her.
She will always be my little baby.

I'm no parenting guru. I just laughed as I wrote that line. No, I'm stumbling and bumbling along but I'd love to share an ephiphany I learned not that long ago. Coming to this realization was incredibly painful but simultaneously, liberating. To be honest, it was the ultimate game-changer in my understanding as a parent seeking after the heart of God.

While there are many methods, tools, philosophies, and biblical principles to parenting, there is – in my opinion – only one purpose or destination.

Our purpose as parents is to eventually…release them. Send forth. For His glory. Met a friend and fellow pastor who I haven't seen in over 20 years. In him, I saw a glimpse of my future. While only 10 years older, his kids are married and he's now a grandfather of 3. His love for his wife and family were so evident and his passion for the Gospel has not wavered. It was so good to see someone a bit older still passionately serving the Lord with such joy and faithfulness. Lord, help me to keep running the race for your Glory. Happy wife.
Happy life. - Eugenius 3:16

I still remember that time, many years ago, when Minhee was pregnant with our first child. She had left her family and friends in Korea just two years before. Her morning sickness was horrible and when she finally had an appetite, she craved her favorite Korean food from certain restaurants in her neighborhood in Seoul, Korea. I had no way of getting that food from those restaurants so I actually said, "How about a Whopper? Big Mac?" Sorry honey. Eat away. You deserve it. I don't care if it sounds mushy but sunsets are one of my love languages. Seoul, Korea was amazing but WOW...what a breathtaking welcome back sunset by Seattle. Not ready to let go of summer.

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