Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Friday, 10 July 2009 14:51 UK

Egyptian anger over slain mother

By Magdi Abdelhadi
Arab affairs analyst, BBC News

Protest over killing of Marwa Sherbini
The murder of Marwa Sherbini has created intense anger in Egypt

The stabbing to death of a young Egyptian mother inside a courtroom in Germany last week has provoked a groundswell of anger in Egypt.

Her funeral, in her hometown of Alexandria, turned into a huge demonstration with banners demanding retribution and denouncing what is widely believed to an increasingly Islamaphobic Europe.

The bare facts of the story horrified the public. A devout and professional Muslim woman was killed while seeking justice inside a European courtroom apparently for no other reason than her being a veil-wearing Muslim woman.

She was murdered in broad daylight under the gaze of the authorities in the German city of Dresden by the very same man from whom she had sought redress for a racist slur.

We are all humans, created by the same God. Our blood is not cheaper
Woman demonstrator

The circumstances surrounding the killing of Marwa Sherbini were shocking by any standards.

She was stabbed 18 times inside the courtroom by the man, a German of Russian descent.

She had accused him of racism for calling her a terrorist, apparently because she wore the Hijab, or Muslim headscarf.

The security guards who rushed to the scene opened fire on her husband, who was trying to defend her, mistaking him for the attacker. He is in a critical condition.

Marwa Sherbini was pregnant and the whole drama unfolded in front of her four-year-old boy.

Anti-Islam claims

For the Egyptians, the majority of whom are Muslims, it was obvious that this was no ordinary crime: Ms Sherbini was killed because she was a Muslim.


Her mother told reporters that her daughter had paid a price for being a proud Muslim wearing the Islamic headscarf.

On Tuesday, the day after her funeral, angry demonstrators gathered outside the German embassy in Cairo denouncing Western civilisation as brutal and anti-Islamic.

A young woman at the demonstration told the BBC: "This is anti-Islam and our blood is not cheaper than any others.

"This is about identity. God created us all the same. We are all humans, created by the same God. "

Assurances from German officials that this was an isolated incident and that justice will be done have done little to assuage the anger.

Father of Marwa Sherbini prays next to coffin
The father of Marwa Sherbini prays next to her casket

Questions are being asked about why the attacker was allowed to take a knife inside the courtroom, and why there was such a serious security failure in a modern and efficient society like Germany.

Behind the questions lurk a suspicion of foul play - some sinister anti-Islamic hand at work.

Others were particularly angered because the murder of Marwa Sherbini did not elicit an adequate response from German or other European capitals.

Commenting on European reactions to the murder - or rather lack of them - the editor of the independent daily Al-Shorook, Abdulazeem Hammad, warned the public against making general judgements about all Germans or all Europeans.

But he went on to accuse the German media of double standards: "I could not prevent myself from comparing how the German media ignored the Dresden incident - as if it had happened on another planet... with the excesses of the same media when a Muslim commits such a crime, or even a lesser one.

"All German television channels, newspapers and other media broadcast for months on end reports, pictures and investigations about the killing of the Dutch film director, [Theo] Van Gogh, at the hands of an extremist Muslim, even though this director had produced what was by all accounts an anti-Islamic film, while Marwa had not committed any offence."

Image problem

But some of the Egyptians' fury was also directed at their own government, which they accuse of failing to respond forcefully enough to the killing of one of its citizens in what was allegedly a racially motivated crime in a foreign country.

One commentator wrote the life of an Egyptian was worthless, because he is treated as such by his own government.

The incident is evidence that the West does have a serious image problem in predominantly Muslim societies such as Egypt.

That is despite the fact that millions dream of travelling - and many do - to Western countries in search of a better life.

It is also proof that the theme of "Islam under attack" is a popular one.

It is exploited by Islamist activists, in the media and society at large, as well as by the governments they oppose across the region for different ends.

For the Islamists, it is an effective rallying cry to mobilise the masses against a pro-Western regime.

For the governments, it is a useful ploy to deflect public anger or local frustrations onto an external enemy.

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