The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

On Marwa al-Sherbiny

Michael Collins Dunn blogs about Marwa al-Sherbini, an Egyptian woman murdered in Germany, and the outrage her death has caused in Egypt, so I don't have to:

Sherbini was a young (32 years old) mother killed in a German court — yes, in an open courtroom during a judicial sesssion — in Dresden July 1 in front of her three-year old son. She was stabbed (18 times) in the courtroom by a xenophobic German who had previously attacked her as a "terrorist" for wearing hijab, leading her to lodge a complaint against him. He was appealing a fine when he stabbed her. Adding insult to injury, when her husband sought to protect her from her attacker, the security in the courtroom shot the husband, not the attacker. (As one person notes in one of the links, "he wasn't blond so he must be the attacker.") And to add more insult to that one, the prosecutor initially charged the attacker with manslaughter (for stabbing someone 18 times in an open courtroom?). (Now there are reports the charge will be changed to murder.)

Oh, sorry, now it appears she was also pregnant with her second child. And why, exactly, are people outraged? Oh, right. All these reasons.

It's received very little coverage in Europe or the US, and that fact as well as the crime itself has outraged the Egyptian street to a remarkable degree. Her body was met at Cairo airport; thousands reportedly turned out for her funeral in Alexandria. Everyone from the Sheikh al-Azhar on down to the most secularist bloggers are expressing concern. The Egyptian blogosphere has been awash with postings, many noting that the killing of Neda Soltan in Iran (by the government, admittedly) led to Western outrage, while the killing of a Muslim mother in a European courtroom by a man clearly motivated by hatred of Islam and Muslims, is ignored.

I first noticed the Egyptian outrage about Marwa on Twitter, where the #marwa tag has been popular in recent days. Most of the complaints are about her death is not covered in the "MSM", the stupid inaccurate blogo-acronym for mainstream media. Except that it is being thoroughly covered by the Arab media, so the complaints are, I suppose, about how it's not dislodging Michael Jackson's death and Sarah Palin's resignation from the top items. And about how there's a double-standard about her death compared to Neda Agha-Soltan's death. Except of course the latter took place in the middle of the biggest protests in Tehran in decades, as part of a story on potential massive political fraud and a hardline coup in Iran, at a time when the country is perhaps the biggest story of the year. And her agony was caught on camera.

So really we're looking at more "clash of civilizations" style victimhood. Of course the Marwa al-Sherbiny case is outrageous, it is a racist murder that took place in courtroom. But do we have to compare it to other news stories? And do we have to ask that the mainstream media in the West (which I advise to simply stop watching, at least TV) cover it? There are countless racist murders and attacks around the world all the time. This one is particularly nasty, but is the most important thing to do about it protest in front of the German embassy in Cairo (as if the German government is responsible) or complain that it's not covered on CNN (although there was excellent coverage on al-Jazeera English)? Is it not enough that it's a major story in most Arab media?

Also see this BBC report.

Update: I knew this post would upset people (see comments), and that was not my intention. As I said, it was a horrible crime. But by your logic, then I will say that Egyptians are racist against Egyptians: in 2007, I don't remember much of a fuss being made about a 13-year-old boy tortured by police in Mansoura and who ended up dying in his mother's arms a few days later. Or does it only matter when an Egyptian gets killed abroad?