Banning Male Circumcision in Cologne, Germany

An upcoming mosque in Cologne. Photo: The Guardian, UK

We have written about female circumcision and the difference between circumcision and female genital mutilation here on Inside Islam, but male circumcision, a common practice in Muslim communities, has not been discussed. Many other groups also circumcise male children for both religious and non-religious reasons. The World Health Organization estimates that about a third of men internationally are circumcised. Around 70% of them are Muslims.

But on Tuesday, a German court in Cologne condemned the practice of circumcising boys, saying that it violates a “fundamental right to bodily integrity.” Continue reading

Unveiled: A Balanced Portrait

Among many events in Madison this week raising awareness about Islam and Muslims was the film, Unveiled, hosted by UW-Madison’s International Student Services and the LGBT Campus Center. The film (Fremde Haut in German), directed by Angelina Maccarone, follows Fariba, an Irani woman seeking asylum in a small, industrial German town. Following the discovery of Fariba’s love affair with a married woman in Tehran, the Irani government threatens to prosecute her for her relationship, which is illegal under Iranian legal code. Fariba’s lover begs forgiveness and swears under oath that she will change and is freed, but Fariba decides to leave Tehran for good.

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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.