Germany has broken its silence. A week after the murder of an Egyptian woman, Marwa El-Sherbini, in a German court, Angela Merkel is expected to extend her condolences today to the Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, at the G8 summit in Italy. The crime, which has been widely termed as racist, has triggered strong protests in the victim’s native country. Egyptians have accused Germany for its lack of reaction.
Marwa El-Sherbini has become the symbol of Islamophobia in Germany. Only 32 years old, the Egyptian, now baptized “martyr of the veil”, was pregnant with her second child when she was stabbed 18 times to death last week in a Dresden courtroom. The assassin, Alex W., a Russian immigrant notoriously reputed as a “xenophobic fanatic”, first appeared before the court in 2008 for having insulted the young woman as a “terrorist, Islamist bitch” because she wore the Islamic veil. He was fined for the insults.
But prosecutors appealed after he openly declared in court that “these people” are not “real human beings.” He had appeared at the Dresden court to answer for those statements when he pounced on Marwa El-Sherbini, who had come to testify, killing her. The husband of the victim who had tried interposing himself between the two was accidentally shot by German police. He is, currently, in critical condition.
For many Egyptians, this crime symbolises a growing trend of Islamophobia in Europe. This feeling has been reinforced by the German administration’s intial silence. Last Tuesday, Thomas Steg, the government spokesman defended Germany’s silence arguing that the details of the case were not sufficiently clear enough for a “spontaneous reaction”. “This is a repugnant act, which bothers and shocks us” he explained.
Nevertheless, a substantial part of the Muslim and Egyptian community believe that the death of Marwa El-Sherbini reveals a certain level of ambient racism in the country. According to the online newspaper Menassat, the financial crisis, poor communication and the persistence of cultural stereotypes, which serve as the foundations of the populist and chauvinistic rhetoric of extreme right parties, are to blame.
Meanwhile, the general secretary of the hea in Germany, Stephan Kramer, has also warned against “Islamophobia” and denounced the lack of political and media reactions. “I wanted to express my solidarity because I was surprised that the media and political reaction was so limited,” he told AFP. “All those who dismissed Islamophobia as a false debate in recent years were wrong.” ”
After several demonstrations, most of them during Marwa El-Sherbini’s funeral last Monday in Alexandria, calls made by Egyptians have been heeded to. A statement by the Chancellor is expected to appease those who have increased their calls for support, on social networking sites, to boycott German products.