Friday, April 10, 2009

East and West clash even in backdrop of child's killing

East and West collide even in a child’s death
By Ray Hanania

Earlier this week, a woman was arrested and charged with the murder of her two year old niece. The story itself is tragic enough, but on top of it are details of her religion. She happens to be Muslim in a region of Chicago where anti-Muslim and anti-Arab hatred has been notorious prevalent.

In this case, though, the woman, Nour Hadid, was charged with beating her niece by the Orland park Police Department. The police followed routine procedures and finger printed and also photographed for a standard police “mug shot” the accused suspect. But her attorneys, represented by Brodsky and Odeh LLC, claims she is the victim of pressure and intimidation.

The victim was two year old Bhia Hadid and an autopsy concluded the child was beaten to death by blunt trauma. She had 55 bruises police and medical examiners concluded occurred over a four day period at her home.

The mainstream media carried the story, which is amazingly tragic on its face. Few mentioned that Nour Hadid is a Muslim or an Arab, although to those in the community the race and religion seemed obvious.

The mug-shot of the suspect showed the suspect with an expression of great pain and grief, like she was crying. There was nothing unusual in the picture. But this morning, Nour Hadid’s husband accused the Orland Park Police of “discrimination,” arguing that his wife was innocent and had her religion disrespected because she normally wears a Hijab, or head covering.

Removing the Hijab and forcing his wife to pose for the picture and then making the picture public, he alleges in several media interviews, violated her rights as a Muslim and depicted her in a disrespectful manner.

Is it really racism? Should the debate be focused on whether or not the accused woman was in fact the victim of discrimination, which the Orland Park Police denied claiming they followed the same procedure for Nour Hadid as they do for all suspects?

Or, is the real story the tragic death of the two-year old girl. Beaten to death, according to the autopsy report?

There was no outrage over the death, but there have been many calls and emails complaining that Nour Hadid’s rights were violated. The incident has also drawn the ire of conservative media fanatics who have blasted the husband and who are using the discussion as a basis to foment their continued anti-Arab and anti-Muslim hatred.

According to the media, Nour’s husband, Alaeddin Hadid said Orland Park police are “really going to be in big trouble” for releasing the woman's booking photo to the news media after she was charged with first-degree murder. He continued that Nour, who is Muslim, “never leaves the home without covering up.” He vowed to file a lawsuit. He asserted, “It [being shown without your hijab] is against our religion; we do not do this in our culture.”

One Muslim activist is quoted in the media saying that the police would not have been so disrespectful to a Christian Nun. The constant comparison of Muslim women who wear a Hijab and Christian Nuns is a constant argument used to support charges of anti-Muslim bias in this country. But are the two really relevant?

Another said it was disrespectful, adding that she looked like she was in her “underwear.” The photo showed Nour Hadid from just below her shoulders upwards. Her arms were crossed over her chest which was not visible.

The comment regarding the nuns is especially offensive to Christians – mainstream Christians and Arab Christians, too – as it was made on the eve of Good Friday as Christians around the world prepare to celebrate Easter (this Sunday for mainstream Christians and next Sunday April 19th for Orthodox Arab Christians).

The fact is that a Nun is not just any woman who observes her religion and wears a head covering, called a “Habit.” In fact, they are official members of the Catholic Church and represent the Catholic Church in official capacities, working at Churches. The “Habits” are obligated by specific Church doctrine to be worn at all times.

Some Muslim women wear a Hijab, which is not to be confused with the oppressive “berqa.” A Hijab is a head and hair covering, similar to the coverings worn by Orthodox Jewish women and very conservative Christian women, too. A “berqa” is a full body covering that also includes the covering of the wearer’s face, which is offensive and reflective less of religious belief and more of male arrogance and domination over women, and not just Muslim women, but Jewish and Christian women too, who are often as easily enslaved in gender-driven oppression.

But the husband asked in the media, “Would they do that to a Nun?” Would they force a nun to remove her Habit off her face to pose for an official criminal identification photograph called a “mug shot?”

The answer is yes. Nuns arrested and charged in crimes have been photographed for mug shots without their head coverings, too. The mug-shots are not private either because police agencies are public institutions. That means that the mug-shot is a legitimately issued public domain property. The public has a right to know who is charged and alleged to be involved in a criminal offense, especially offenses of such heinous nature.

Is Nour Hadid guilty or innocent? Too often in America, Arabs and Muslims are guilty until proven innocent. That was in fact the policy of this country for the past eight years after Sept. 11, 2001, when 19 terrorists who happened to be Muslim, became the poster children of the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab conservative fanatics and mainly Christian zealots in this country.

Nour Hadid is innocent until proven guilty. But is this an incident of discrimination? I’m not sure. The Orland Park police were simply following procedure in events that were out of their control. A woman is accused of murdering a two year old child. And Orland Park has had a history of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents.

It’s the murder of the child that is really the significance in this matter. In the face of such atrocities, some – I repeat some -- individual rights must be sacrificed, especially those rights with which have to do with identification.

You cannot permit anyone accused of a crime to hide behind their religious observance. The real tragedy is that the crime, whether Nour Hadid is innocent or guilty, imposes on us a vigilance that must place the need to determine the truth as our cumulative priority.

Let’s determine who did or did not kill baby Ghia Hadid. Everyone should be ready to make a personal sacrifice for that.

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