Dresden honours Egyptian “veil martyr”

The city of Dresden on Thursday paid its respects to a pregnant Egyptian woman who was stabbed to death in a courtroom one year ago in a racially motivated crime that outraged the Muslim world (http://www.euro-islam.info/2009/09/02/the-marwa-al-sherbini-case-investigators-believe-killer-hated-non-europeans-and-muslims).

Officials including Saxon Justice Minister Jürgen Martens honoured the memory of 31-year-old Marwa El-Sherbini, dubbed the “veil martyr,” with a plaque to serve as a warning against racism. “One year ago all of us were forced to realise the deadly logic of the hatred of foreigners,” said Martens, adding that the murder had shaken “Dresden, Germany and the entire world.” He promised not to stop fighting this misanthropic attitude. Members of the local Muslim community took part in the ceremony and a commemorative march was held later in the day.

A commemorative plaque was unveiled in the foyer of the regional court where the murder took place. The plaque’s inscription, written in both German and Arabic, read that the Egyptian has fallen victim to islamophobia and xenophobia, which she had fought with dignity and exemplary moral courage. “We bow to the victim of this dreadful and incomprehensible deed and join her family in grieving for her”, it reads.

Christian Demuth, of a local association for civil courage, and artist Johannes Köhler placed a sculpture in front of the court. It is a large knife of 1.50m made of concrete and is supposed to remind the citizens of Dresden of the everyday racism in the city. The association will set up 18 similar sculptures to the end of July, standing for “the small and big stabs that people in Dresden have to endure every day because of masked or open racism”, Demuth says.

Despite 2009 difficulties, promising horizons for German Muslims

In this article, the author sums up the major 2009 events concerning German Muslims. She refers to surprising statistics and remarkable conferences as well as political progress, pointing to the increased goodwill and determination of politicians to improve German Muslim living conditions.

The most painful event was, without doubt, the racist murder of Egyptian Marwa el-Sherbini in a Dresden courtroom. However, the author closes on a positive note and welcomes the start of Cologne’s mosque construction and the fact that minarets are present at many mosques throughout the country.

Life sentence for Dresden courtroom murderer

Alex W., the man who stabbed pregnant Egyptian pharmacist Marwa al-Sherbini to death in a courtroom in Dresden in July, was sentenced to life in prison on Wednesday. The judge imposed the harshest possible sentence under the German system by ruling that W. will not be eligible for parole after 15 years.

International attention to the case was high. Responses to the verdict have generally been positive, except for those who demanded a death sentence or extradition to Egypt for a death penalty, both of which possibilities have been abolished in the EU. The Egyptian ambassador to Germany was pleased with the sentence, as it was the highest possible.

German Muslims warned against growing Islamophobia in Germany, but welcomed the sentence, which is also a sign that Islamophobic currents are not institutionalized in Germany. Many newspapers discuss the fact that society must remain vigilant and it must always ensure an environment in which wearing the veil – an initial spark of the tragedy – does not become life-threatening.

The Marwa Al-Sherbini Case: Investigators Believe Killer ‘Hated Non-Europeans’ and Muslims

Two months after the brutal murder of an Egyptian woman in a courtroom in Dresden, investigators believe the German-Russian immigrant who killed Marwa al-Sharbini was motivated by xenophobia. The case, which has not yet gone to trial, continues to be the focus of intense pressure from abroad. The tragic events were set in motion at a swing set in a plain wooden sandbox in Dresden, a major city in eastern Germany. A huge ash-leaf maple tree casts its shadow. East German-era prefab tower blocks are located next door, and tenants hang their laundry out to dry next to the small playground in the city’s Johannstadt district. Everything is regulated here — even playtime, which is permitted from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the summer months. It was on this playground that Alexander W.* and Marwa al-Sherbini met for the first time on August 21, 2008. He was a 27-year-old Russian-German from Perm; she a 30-year-old Egyptian from Alexandria. Both had been stranded in eastern Germany by chance. They hadn’t encountered each other before — and there was no reason to think they ever would again. But an ominous confrontation ensued following a dispute over a swing, culminating 10 months later with a crime that rattled the Islamic world, battered Germany’s reputation and gave Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad another excuse to hurl invectives. Steffen Winter reports.

Man charged over German court killing

Prosecutors on Tuesday filed murder charges against a man who fatally stabbed a pregnant Egyptian woman in a German court — a killing that caused outrage in her native country and beyond. The 28-year-old Russian-born German, identified only as Alex W., acted out of “hatred for non-Europeans and Muslims” in the July 1 killing, prosecutors in the eastern city of Dresden said in a statement.

Marwa al-Sherbini, a 31-year-old pharmacist, was stabbed at least 16 times in a Dresden courtroom where she was to testify against the suspect. She had filed a complaint against him in 2008 accusing him of insulting her with racial slurs. Her husband was stabbed and suffered serious injuries when he intervened to protect her. The couple’s 3-year-old son was in the courtroom and witnessed the attack.

In addition to murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison, prosecutors charged the assailant with attempted murder and bodily harm for his attack on el-Sherbini’s husband, Elwy Okaz.

The charges were filed with the state court in Dresden, which will now allow the defendant to respond, and then will decide whether and when a trial should start. Prosecutors said they did not expect further information for
“a few weeks.” A psychiatric expert has found no evidence that the man is unfit to stand trial, they added. Egyptians expressed outrage at the attack and an initially low-key German response, which many viewed as a sign of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. The week after the killing, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her condolences to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Iran also protested the slaying. Al-Sherbini had already testified once against the man in court in November 2008, after which he was fined for calling her a “terrorist” at a playground.

He had returned to court on July 1 to challenge the fine. Because the man was not considered a threat and had not been held in detention before the court session, there was no special security surrounding the hearing. Many
German courts, including the one where the killing took place, have no security checks at their entrance. Prosecutors said the defendant used a kitchen knife with a 7-inch (18-centimeter) blade that he had brought into
the courtroom in a backpack. Lars Rischke reports.

In Dresden, High Culture and Ugly Reality Clash

In early July thousands of mourners took to the streets in Egypt, chanting “Down with Germany.” Thousands more Arabs and Muslims joined them in protests in Berlin. In Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad added to the outcry by denouncing German “brutality.” The provocation was the murder on July 1 of Marwa al-Sherbini, a pregnant Egyptian pharmacist here. She was stabbed 18 times in a Dresden courtroom, in front of her 3-year-old son, judges and other witnesses, reportedly by the man appealing a fine for having insulted Ms. Sherbini in a park. Identified by German authorities only as a 28-year-old Russian-born German named Alex W., he had called Ms. Sherbini an Islamist, a terrorist and a slut when she asked him to make room for her son on the playground swings. Ms. Sherbini wore a head scarf. The killer also stabbed Elwi Okaz, Ms. Sherbini’s husband and a genetic research scientist, who was critically wounded as he tried to defend her. The police, arriving late on the scene, mistook him for the attacker and shot him in the leg. More than a week passed before the German government, responding to rising anger across the Arab world, expressed words of sorrow while stressing that the attack did occur during the prosecution of a racist and that the accused man was originally from Russia. Dresden is one of the great cultural capitals of Europe. It is also the capital of Saxony, a former part of East Germany that, along with having a reputation as Silicon Saxony, has made more than a few headlines in recent years for incidents of xenophobia and right-wing extremism. One wonders how to reconcile the heights of the city’s culture with the gutter of these events. MICHAEL KIMMELMAN reports.

Iran: Few words for China but plenty for Germany

Iran has reacted with outrage over the stabbing death of an Egyptian woman in a German courthouse, calling it a sign of racism against Muslims, yet has said little about China’s crackdown on Uighur Muslims – a silence some leading Iranian clerics have criticized. The differing reaction from a country that portrays itself as a defender of Islam worldwide is a sign of how highly Iran values its political and economic ties with China and how Tehran is trying to deflect attention following its own crackdown on protesters after the country’s disputed presidential election. Iran has been one of the most vocal countries criticizing Germany in the wake of Marwa al-Sherbini’s death. The pregnant 31-year-old Egyptian was stabbed 18 times in a Dresden court July 1 by a man she was scheduled to testify against for allegedly calling her a “terrorist.” When he tried to protect her, her husband was stabbed by the attacker and shot by court security. Some 1,500 Iranian women gathered in front of the German Embassy in Tehran on Tuesday chanting “Death to the enemy of hijab” – a reference to the hijab, or Islamic headscarf that al-Sherbini wore, Iran’s state news agency reported. REBECCA SANTANA reports.

ADC Letter to German Ambassador Urges Investigation into anti-Muslim Hate Crime

Today, in a letter to German Ambassador Klaus Scharioth, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee (ADC) expressed its somber concern over
the heinous murder of an Egyptian woman in a courtroom in Dresden, Germany.

According to reports, Marwa Al-Sherbini was stabbed to death 18 times in a German courtroom while her husband, who tried to intervene, was also stabbed by the attacker and shot in the leg by a security officer who mistook him to be the attacker. Al-Sherbini was three months pregnant and was murdered in-front of her three-year old son.

Ms. Al-Sherbini was involved in a lawsuit against the alleged attacker who had called her a “terrorist” because she was wearing the Muslim headscarf or hijab. She was scheduled to testify against him when this horrendous act took place. Ms. Al-Sherbini was wearing her hijab at the time of the attack. The
prosecutor at the hearing, described the attacker as having a deep hatred towards Muslims.

In the letter to Ambassador Scharioth, ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “We understand that a comprehensive legal investigation is being conducted by German authorities. However, this heinous crime must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This attack is but the most recent incident involving anti-Muslim hate and intolerance targeted against the Muslim community in Germany.” The letter continued, “It is our hope that German authorities will use all available legal means to classify this as a hate-motivated murder and report it to the appropriate agencies monitoring anti-Muslim intolerance including the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).”

The letter concluded with an ADC request that “the German Government will take more concrete steps to protect the Muslim communities and Muslim institutions of Germany.”

Egyptians cry racism in woman’s slaying in Germany

Thousands of Egyptian mourners marched behind the coffin of the “martyr of the head scarf” on Monday — a pregnant Muslim woman who was stabbed to death in a German courtroom as her young son watched. Many in her homeland were outraged by the attack and saw the low key response in Germany as an example of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment. Her husband was critically wounded in the attack Wednesday in Dresden when he tried to intervene and was stabbed by the attacker and accidentally shot by court security. “There is no god but God and the Germans are the enemies of God,” chanted the mourners for 32-year-old Marwa al-Sherbini in her hometown of Alexandria, where her body was buried after being flown back from Germany. “We will avenge her killing,” her brother Tarek el-Sherbini told The Associated Press by telephone from the mosque where prayers were being recited in front of his sister’s coffin. “In the West, they don’t recognize us. There is racism.” Al-Sherbini, who was about four months pregnant and wore the Islamic head scarf, was involved in a court case against her neighbor for calling her a terrorist and was set to testify against him when he stabbed her 18 times inside the courtroom in front of her 3-year-old son. Her husband, who was in Germany on a research fellowship, came to her aid and was also stabbed by the neighbor and shot in the leg by a security guard who initially mistook him for the attacker, German prosecutors said. He is now in critical condition in a German hospital, according to al-Sherbini’s brother. “The guards thought that as long as he wasn’t blond, he must be the attacker so they shot him,” al-Sherbini told an Egyptian television station. The man, who has only been identified as 28-year-old Alex W., remains in detention and prosecutors have opened an investigation on suspicion of murder. Christian Avenarius, the prosecutor in Dresden where the incident took place, described the killer as driven by a deep hatred of Muslims. “It was very clearly a xenophobic attack of a fanatical lone wolf.” He added that the attacker was a Russian of German descent who had immigrated to Germany in 2003 and had expressed his contempt for Muslims at the start of the trial. At its regular news conference on Monday, a German government spokesman Thomas Steg said if the attack was racist, the government “naturally condemns this in the strongest terms.” The killing has dominated Egyptian media for days, while it has received comparatively little coverage in German and Western media. MAGGIE MICHAEL reports.