A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Marwa al-Sherbini Case and the Outrage of the Egyptian Street

Have you heard of the Marwa al-Sherbini case? If not, it may be worth asking why not, since that's what Egyptians are asking.

Some of my readers, most of whom are presumably involved professionally or academically in Middle East affairs, may have heard of Marwa al-Sherbini, but the case has been little noted in the Western media. Sherbini was a young (32 years old) mother killed in a German court — yes, in an open courtroom during a judicial sesssion — in Dresden July 1 in front of her three-year old son. She was stabbed (18 times) in the courtroom by a xenophobic German who had previously attacked her as a "terrorist" for wearing hijab, leading her to lodge a complaint against him. He was appealing a fine when he stabbed her. Adding insult to injury, when her husband sought to protect her from her attacker, the security in the courtroom shot the husband, not the attacker. (As one person notes in one of the links, "he wasn't blond so he must be the attacker.") And to add more insult to that one, the prosecutor initially charged the attacker with manslaughter (for stabbing someone 18 times in an open courtroom?). (Now there are reports the charge will be changed to murder.)

Oh, sorry, now it appears she was also pregnant with her second child. And why, exactly, are people outraged? Oh, right. All these reasons.

It's received very little coverage in Europe or the US, and that fact as well as the crime itself has outraged the Egyptian street to a remarkable degree. Her body was met at Cairo airport; thousands reportedly turned out for her funeral in Alexandria. Everyone from the Sheikh al-Azhar on down to the most secularist bloggers are expressing concern. The Egyptian blogosphere has been awash with postings, many noting that the killing of Neda Soltan in Iran (by the government, admittedly) led to Western outrage, while the killing of a Muslim mother in a European courtroom by a man clearly motivated by hatred of Islam and Muslims, is ignored. The Egyptian reaction is pretty intense so far, and interestingly, some of the opposition forces seem particularly incensed. Though the official media is incensed as well, these kinds of popular outcries can backfire on unpopular regimes.

Here's an overall account of the case. And here are some of the blogposts so far, starting with English:

Zenobia at Egyptian Chronicles;

Hicham Maged's Blog;

Here, Bikya Misr argues that the Western media is showing its bias by ignoring the case; many have compared the coverage of Neda Soltan, the Iranian women killed by the Basij, with this case, though obviously this was not a killing by an arm of the state;

And newspaper accounts. In English:

at Al-Misri al-Yaum.

at Daily News Egypt

Blogs in Arabic:

The funeral in Alexandria at Iskanderani Misri.

Newspapers in Arabic:

The main government daily Al-Ahram;

Reactions at the website Al-Misriyun;

The opposition Al-Dustur calling her shahidat al-hijab (martyr of the hijab);

. . . and so on. This feels, at a distance, like real outrage, from bloggers conservative and leftist, and in the street. This case is going to get a great deal of attention in Egypt and probably throughout the Muslim world.


Unknown said...

It seems to be getting some attenion now http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090706/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_egypt_germany

mgtechhead said...

The post is WRONG - the MURDER was not a !!!! GERMAN !!!! He was a Russian with just a German citizenship.

He was living from welfare like the victim too.

We Germans don't REALY discriminate Muslims - how deal Egypts with their Christs ? Did they not destroy their live by taking them their pigs - without any scientific proofable reason ?

Don Thieme said...

Although Mario is correct that the assassin was not a native-born German, the stabbing did take place in a German courtroom. Furthermore, when the police finally did intervene they shot Marwa's husband instead of subduing the European assassin.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

I agree that the fact that the assassin was Russian-born isn't the point here: this was a German courtroom, and the security shot the wrong man. As for the Egyptian pig kill, if you check my archives you'll find I commented on it extensively.

Christian Runkel said...

Michael, greetings from Germany. Please keep in mind that 3.3 Million Muslims live here, peacefully and obviously glad to be Germans. On the way to my office downtown I see women in headscarfs every morning. They work in shops, local government etc. Germany is one of the safest place if you want to live long as a Muslim.

furqan said...

the point my friend is that this murder was highly symbolic if not anything ....

a passive gesture by the court room authorities and the law enforcement agencies about the current global situation ....

dont take any event singularly ... try connecting the dots and you will be able to see a pattern ....

muslims are not encouraged to standup .... that is a point that the whole west is trying to prove ... somewhere they use the guns ... sometimes deceit ..

stand up muslim ummah .. cause if you dont there will be tumult and oppression everywhere

Christian Runkel said...

Nabeel, highly symbolic for what? That poor little policeman in court stands for only one thing: that he never used a weapon in his life before. In my hometown's court there are policemen, too. I am always afraid that they could ever try to protect me. Germany is an open society, open for many - madmen, week police and all. We are even open for an insult from you, Nabeel - but we do not deserve it.

Asim Malik said...

This is a very tragic incident and I fully sympathies are with the victim and her family members. However, blaming the whole German nation for this heinous crime is definitely not the right thing to do. We must understand that there is a huge Muslim population living and working in Germany peacefully and this one incident should not be taken as evidence against the German nation.

Andreassen said...

Just for your information. This is getting some attention in Norway. Three large national newspapers write about this on their web pages (and probably on paper too, I havent checked). One of them also links to this blog. I also expect some other smaller newspapers to put it in print and not online.

Michael Collins Dunn said...


That would explain why the blog has been getting a bunch of referrals from dagblated.no. I was wondering.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

oops. Make that Dagbladet.no.

Ehab ( Egyptian ) said...

Very tragic incident and I fully sympathies are with the victim and her family members.

However I see it as a single mad man incident.

also the policeman had to take a hard decision shooting at 3 engaged in a fight , bad luck he missed

But ! how could someone enter the court room with a weapon ?!

Anonymous said...

why you are angry for Marwa guys and not for Adel karas? is because he is coptic? you Exposed your facism.

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Count of Monte Cristo:

Adel Karas was killed in 2001; this blog started in 2009, and he wasn't killed in a courtroom. It was an outrage at the time but I don't think that means we can't comment on more recent outrages as they occur.

Anonymous said...

i wonder why muslims didn't get angry for the murder of Adel Karas not why this blog got angry for it, please read what i write well.
and what do you mean he didn't got killed in a court room? you mean muslims are angry just because it happened in a court room?

again i never said you should guys not comment on the recent evenets, i just wondered why muslims are mad for Marwa and not for Karas.