Closure for the “Hijab Martyr”

This past July, in Dresden, Germany, Marwa al-Sherbini, a 32-year-old Egyptian pharmacist was murdered in a courtroom. I wrote about this story right after it happened and received many responses to the event. Many were troubled by the fact that this women was stabbed at least 16 times in full view of witnesses, including her husband and three year old son, and no one was able to save her.

The update to the story is that the murderer, Alexander Wiens, has now been convicted of the crime and sentenced to life imprisonment. In a highly anticipated trial, especially for Egyptians, it seemed like justice was served. While many Egyptians and Muslims worldwide were troubled by the immediate silence of German media after the event, the fact that Wiens received the maximum sentence without the customary possibility for early release after 15 years quelled the frustration.

Although something like this should never have happened, the verdict gives some closure to this highly contentious case and perhaps offers lessons into the dangers of hate.

What is your reaction to the verdict? Will this help relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany and elsewhere? How severe should the consequences be for hate crimes? Please share your comments.

“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.

“Meet the Taqwacores” on MSNBC

A couple of weeks ago, Inside Islam aired a radio show on “The Taqwacores” and we posted a series of blog entries on the punk movement in the US. You can listen to the broadcast and browse all of the posts about Taqwacores on Inside Islam by clicking here.

The following video from NBC Nightly News features our guests from that radio show — author of The Taqwacores Michael Muhammad Knight and drummer for the Kominas Imran Malik. The video highlights other individuals and bands who are also struggling to articulate this new Muslim punk genre of music and what it means to a mainstream audience.

Continue reading

Asra Nomani: “A Bad Girl of Islam”

Upcoming Documentary A Mosque in Morgantown

Upcoming Documentary A Mosque in Morgantown

The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog recently posted video of a two-part conversation with Asra Nomani, journalist, Muslim activist, and feminist. She is also part of the upcoming documentary The Mosque In Morgantown about a Muslim community in West Virginia.

“On Faith” hosts the blog of another prominent Muslim-American voice, the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core Eboo Patel who is a regular contributor to the site. His entries can be found on “The Faith Divide.”

Continue reading

Ali Eteraz: Pakistan is Already an Islamic State

Today’s guest post is by Ali Eteraz. Eteraz was an Outstanding Scholar at the U.S. Department of Justice and later worked in corporate litigation in Manhattan. He is a contributor to Pakistan’s Daily Times and Dawn newspapers and the author of the forthcoming prose work, Children of Dust. This article was originally published in Dissent Magazine and posted here with the author’s permission.

A recent sharia-for-peace deal between militant groups and the civilian government in Pakistan’s quasi-autonomous Swat region has ignited interest in the status of Islamic law in Pakistan. The U.S. State Department, concerned about terrorist safe-havens, called the deal a “negative development.” Meanwhile, Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek, trying to look at the bright side of things, argued that the deal might drive a wedge between “violent” radicals and those that are “merely extreme.”

Continue reading

The Musawah Movement

A group of women from around the world met in Malaysia to launch the Musawah movement for gender equality and family law reform (photo via Musawah.org).

A group of women from around the world met in Malaysia to launch the Musawah movement for gender equality and family law reform (photo via Musawah.org).

Soon after religious authorities outlawed yoga earlier this year, Muslim women asked, “what next?” Irritated and outraged by their mistreatment and angered by the horrors of domestic violence, hundreds of Muslim women from around the world gathered last February in Malaysia. This global meeting marked the official launch of the Musawah movement for equal rights and family reform.

An organization of working professionals called Sisters in Islam led planning of the movement and the launch event. For an interview with Sisters in Islam program manager Norhayati Kaprawi, visit the page for our Inside Islam radio show “Women and Sharia.” Women involved in the Malaysian conference also included scholars, doctors, lawyers, and even bloggers who represented countries from across the globe.

Continue reading

Social Networking and the Gaza Protests

A Banner for the April 6th Strike in Egypt (via Facebook)

A Banner for the April 6th Strike in Egypt (via Facebook)

Social networks such as Facebook are increasingly used to organize political demonstrations like this April 6, 2008 strike and promote their coverage in mainstream news reports. In Egypt, this popularity of new media for social organizing is due in part to emergency laws that prohibit opposition groups from meeting publicly in groups of more than six people. This did make organizing mass non-violent protests challenging and time-consuming in the past, but online blog and social networks like Facebook have allowed young people to create groups, organize events, and invite friends to chat online instead.

Continue reading

The White House Office of Faith-Based Partnerships

President Barack Obama has announced the expansion of aid to faith-based partnerships. His executive order built upon President Bush’s White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnerships initiative, slightly changing the name to the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. As has been much discussed, government support of faith-based initiatives calls into question the separation of church and state. The worry is that federal funds may go to businesses whose hiring or service provision discriminates against people with different religious beliefs. At The National Prayer Breakfast this month, President Obama announced the office and called for religious leaders to let go of intolerant attitudes. He asked America to return to pluralism:

the particular faith that motivates each of us can promote a greater good for all of us. Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships that I’m announcing later today.

President Obama promises the White House office aid will extend outreach to organizations based on the impact of their work, not the influence of faith-based institutions. He also ruled out proselytizing and laid down the first practical outcome of launching outreach is to to improve services that reduce poverty. In addition, the president has adopted a pluralistic vision for reaching out to the Muslim community in the Arab world. He hopes to open a dialogue with Islamic leaders around the world and believes it can happen soon.

Continue reading

A Listener Responds to ‘Women and Sharia’

Dave Wood, a listener of the Inside Islam radio series on Here on Earth: Radio Without Borders, writes:

I wish I was writing with typical accolades but unfortunately I’m sending a note about my disappointment in your Inside Islam series. I think it not only lacks objective reporting but, even worse, it whitewashes Islam leaving your listener less prepared to identify radical Islam’s threat to our freedom and culture. Perhaps most important, your program does not challenge Muslims to face the profound human rights issues their religion faces.

Continue reading

A Jihad for Love

Jihad for Love (Halal Flims, 2007)

Jihad for Love (Halal Flims, 2007)

The documentary film A Jihad for Love follows the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims living in places around the world, including Egypt, Iran, India, Turkey, Canada, and France. The film follows these individuals in underground subcultures for homosexual communities in Muslim countries and as immigrants to the West where their lifestyles are more acceptable in public. The main storyline of the film centers on a homosexual Imam from South Africa, Muhsin Hendricks, who was once partnered with a woman in an arranged marriage, is now divorced and is still close with his three children. He says at one point that the marriage was out of guilt for having feelings towards men and pressure to conform with religious norms in the Muslim community in Capetown.

Continue reading