EL CAJON, Calif. — Shaima Alawadi and her family fled Iraq nearly two decades ago as Saddam Hussein crushed a Shiite uprising, settling in the United States so they would no longer face persecution, a family friend said.

Alawadi grew up in the country’s largest Iraqi enclaves, wore the Muslim headscarf and volunteered at the mosque.

Now, after her body was found severely beaten in her suburban San Diego home, police, the FBI and members of the Iraqi community are wondering whether her death was a hate crime or something else.

Among the evidence that police have collected is a threatening note that was near Alawadi’s body. Her daughter told a television station that it said: “Go back to your country, you terrorist.”

El Cajon Police Chief James Redman said the note has led police to regard the killing as a possible hate crime.

“I want to stress there is other evidence in this case that we are looking at and the possibility this is a hate crime is just one aspect,” Redman said, adding that they have not drawn any conclusions.

“We don’t have tunnel vision on this case,” he said. “We’re looking at the big picture.”

Redman said he was confident it was an isolated incident but would not say why.

The death rippled across the world, with Alawadi’s name being mentioned on Twitter and the case being discussed in Iraqi communities in the San Diego and Detroit suburbs. Lawmakers in Baghdad called for a full investigation.

Her slaying was being compared to that of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teen shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

“Trayvon was black wearing a hoodie. Shaima was wearing a hijab,” Walid said. “It’s the same racist principle at play that killed both of these individuals.”

Others were more guarded.

“We don’t want to jump to any conclusions and say it’s a hate crime when there is still a lot of investigation to be done,” said Edgar Hopida, spokesman for CAIR in San Diego.

The chief said Alawadi died of severe head trauma. She was taken off life support Saturday, three days after her teenage daughter found her unconscious in the dining room of the family’s El Cajon home.