“Headscarf Martyr” Mourned

Where can someone start with the story that has occupied Egyptian news media outlets for the past few days? It sounds so outrageous and so sad. How can a 32-year-old pregnant woman get murdered in a courtroom in Germany in full view of  witnesses? But it did happen and now Muslim communities around the Middle East and the world are struggling to cope with the news.

Marwa El-Sherbini, who was a few months pregnant, was stabbed in a German courtroom in Dresden 18 times on July 1st, 2009, in front of her 3-year-old son and her husband. The assailant was a man that she had sued for insulting her religion and calling her a terrorist and Islamist as well as for trying to take her scarf off in one incident. Her husband, Elwi Ali Okaz, an academic on scholarship, tried to rescue his wife and was shot by a security guard and stabbed by the attacker and is now in critical condition.

El-Sherbini is now being referred to as the ‘Headscarf Martyr’ because she was killed so violently, defending her right to practice her faith peacefully. On Monday, July 6th, thousands attended her funeral in Alexandria, Egypt, and are wondering why someone so young died because of another’s extreme hatred. More troubling is the relative silence in the media about this story. Isn’t her death important as well if there is a call for tolerance and civility?!?

When I heard about this story on Egyptian television, I knew that I had to write about it. I know that President Obama called for a spirit of tolerance worldwide so that we can begin to move away from this kind of destructive hatred. It’s important to be aware of and counter hatred that leads to violence no matter where it occurs. Now one more person has lost her life for no other reason than her wish to practice her faith.

Did you hear about this story? What is your reaction? What should the world’s reaction be to her murder? Do you think Muslims in the United States and elsewhere face similar struggles? Please share your comments.

11 thoughts on ““Headscarf Martyr” Mourned

  1. I am haunted by this story. I keep imagining what it must have been like to be in that courtroom, bearing witness to such a savage assault that left a murdered woman, a mutilated fetus, a husbnd critically injured, and traumatized a three year old child. How will that child feel about courtrooms for the rest of his life? Why didn’t someone stop the assailant? How could it be that he was allowed to stab his victim 18 times, and then attack her husband? Why did the police shoot the husband in the leg instead of apprehending the assailant? What does this tell us about the West vs. the Rest? And above all, where is the outrage? Why aren’t women all over the world, not just in Egypt, mourning the death of this faithful mother? Why aren’t we all wearing head scarves in solidarity? I pray for the father’s survival. I pray for the wellbeing of that little boy. I pray for justice. Every woman’s death diminishes me.

  2. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon. May Allah have mercy on her. I was very upset after reading this, and slightly surprised/disappointed that I had to go to the Al-Jazeera website to read about it since the few other news sites I go to didn’t mention it. I shared this article with my mother (who is not a muslim) and the first thing she said was, “I think about that a lot. Since you started wearing the headscarf I am terrified that someone is going to hurt you, a lot of people have a blind hatred for Islam.” Its disturbing how easy it was for this man, in a court room, to stab this woman AND her husband dozens of times. What bothers me the most though is the lack of response to these things from the US. I mean, a few days after the Iranian election, Congress voted to condemn the Iranian governments actions. What about this? What about what has recently happened in China with the Uighur? What about Israel who still has yet to get any real backlash for its continuous blantant human rights violations? We as Muslims should not be afraid to practice our religion, and if the US is not going to stand up for us I think its time that we should. Muslims in the US especially are viewed differently in that our own country looks at us like terrorists, and the rest of the Muslim world looks at us like we are fair weather Muslims. We are all brothers and sisters, and when something happens to a brother or sister, it hurts all of us and I think we need to start showing that publically. Allahu Akbar! I wear my scarf proudly and the fact that this woman was strong enough to stand up for her faith lights a fire in me. I hope her story inspires us all to be proud of our faith.

  3. This story is shocking and appauling. This woman was standing up for her rights and she died for them as well….it is so sad. I agree with Jean, why aren’t women around the world uniting? Where is the solidarity? Regardless of religious affiliations, mankind has a duty to protect the innocent and to ensure safety for our fellow brothers and sisters.

    Who cares if a woman wears a scarf on her head? What is the world so afraid of? Where is this hate coming from? When did it become acceptable to hate people for their clothing?

    Phobias are going to be the cancer of our society…Islamaphobia seems to be the prevalent phobia and on a Global scale.

    Keep up the good work with this blog and your radio program. May it enlighten even one person….all it takes is for one person to make a change and you have successfully helped another human being to turn from ignorance to a wealth of knowledge and acceptance of others.

    Best wishes and peace to all!

  4. I must say I was struck by reading this blog because the thought that this woman would be so brutally attacked in a court room, with none of the protective personnel acting to stop this incident from occuring, or at least preventing it from the extreme which it was, is horrifying.
    We, as intelligent people, must learn to accept that while we are all different, we are all fundamentally the same. Some of us wear headscarves, some of us don’t. Some of us wear crosses, some of us don’t. Some of us practice our faiths and others have none. The horror here is that someone feels that they are “more right” than another.
    As has been stated above, better than I can say it, “We are all brothers and sisters, and when something happens to a brother or sister, it hurts all of us”!
    This woman’s death is a horrifing reminder that hate comes in all forms, in all religions and within all people. One might be able to argue that this woman’s child–who witnessed this attack–will grow up to fear and in the end hate all people who resemble his mother’s murderer.
    I find myself praying that her son and husband who were witnesses to such an attack will find a way to come to “peace” with this incident, and learn that what we do not need in this world is more hate, but more understanding. Their wife and mother was fighting for that. And we, as citizens of the world must demand that 1) this story be reported more widely so that the hate which inspired it can be faced, and 2) realize that all people of all religions have rights to practice their faith as they see fit–without harming themselves or others.

  5. And what has happened to the attacker? Was he harmed at all? Arrested and held now for murder charges? And if he has been held, what will be the outcome of the trial. That is where I will be sadly disappointed if there is no showing of protest or outrage that this happened. The courthouse should be filled with Muslims and picketed everyday.
    This is why my husband has told me not to wear hijab anymore in this country. Because he is afraid for my safety. We shouldnt have to worry about these things. Nuns wear headcoverings, we dont hear of them being attacked, so why is hijab such a threat to people. It is just ridiculous.

  6. What an atrocity. I have not seen mention of it in American news.
    This is racism and racial terrorism and harassment on a huge scale.
    What has happened to this attacker? Why did no one try to stop him? To be able to stab someone 18 times in a court of law with judge,lawyers, and onlookers present is inconceivable. Yet when the husband steps in to try and stop this beast he is shot. What kind of world is this? It sounds like a type of holocaust thinking.

    I find it incredible that the German society, which calls itself a democracy and a civilized country would allow such a thing to happen.

    My prayers and thoughts go out to her family and I pray that Allah grant them sollace and support in this time of need and trauma.

    Let us all support her and her family in our prayers and make our voices heard that such needless, inconceivable violence
    will stop and that the world will know of the terrible acts and pain and suffering caused by such anti-Semitic hatred and prejudice that is going on against the Muslim world. My prayer is that people will turn away from such blatant hatred and wrongful
    killings and become aware of the need for justice and peace.

    Again my prayers go out to the family.

  7. I was utterly shocked at this bizarre story. Not only am I saddened, I am angry that this story is barely heard in the news. Instead, if a Muslim whispers ‘kaboom’ in a cave in Afghanistan it’s all over the news.
    The media always highlights how so many young Muslims are willing to die for their ’cause’, whatever it may be, to attain paradise-why don’t we highlight the fact that this man hated this Muslim woman so much that he was willing to risk the rest of his life in jail for it.?

  8. Pingback: The New Mainstream™ » Catching Up: 2009-07-14

  9. i just can,t believe something like this could happen, in a courthouse with security guards all around this young woman . what is happening to society her poor husband and little son ,,i dont understand the hatred that some people have for muslim,s why are people so afraid of the scarf, hijab, i think that people believe everything they hear on television ,,media ,,,papers about islam and it,s all negative. i am so sad. annette alim,,,asalam,alaikum