Wednesday, June 30, 2010

July 1st Remember Marwa al-Sherbini on World Hijab Day

If you haven't heard of this case by now (which is entirely possible due to subjectivity of the global media), it's one of heartbreak and injustice. As the story goes, Marwa al-Sherbini was a pharmacist who lived in Germany with her husband and three-year-old son. Last year, she was at the park with her son and was verbally abused by a Russian living in Germany (Alex W.). She asked him to give up a swing for her son, to which he responded by calling her an "Islamist", a "terrorist", and a profanity.

Following the incident, al-Sherbini sued and won against her attacker. On July 1, 2009, however, another hearing in the case took place. Just as Mrs. al-Sherbini was going to testify against Alex W., he lunged at her and stabbed her 18 times in front of her family. Yes, you read that correctly, 18 times. Her husband Elwi Okaz attempted to protect her in vain and ended up accidentally being shot by a security guard in the midst of the chaos. Many German courts, including that in Dresden where the attack occurred, have no security checks at their entrance.

The outrage in her native Egypt was profound and brought together people from completely different sides of the Egyptian social spectrum. The case has united Egyptian bloggers, who typically cannot agree on anything. Her funeral was attended by members of parliament, a representative on behalf of Egypt's Coptic Christians, a minister, and thousands of working class citizens. Her story became known as that of the Hijab Martyr.

Was Marwa al-Sherbini brutally murdered because she wore the Islamic Hijab? We may never truly know, but given the social and political climate in Europe, there's a very good chance the constant dehumanization of Muslims was a factor. The recent electoral gains of fanatical Far Right groups in Europe who campaigned on the basis that Islam was "backward" and had no place in Europe testify to this. More recently, Muslim women all over the West were put at ease knowing that French President Nicolas Sarkozy was on a mission to liberate us by banning the Burqa.

Many Muslim pundits have asked the "What if it was an X person killed by a Muslim instead?" question. That question is pointless, and it will not bring any justice to Marwa al-Sherbini. Her story is unique and compelling in itself that we do not need to bring other in cases. The media coverage initially was relatively disappointing and would have been much more intense given different circumstances. However, that doesn't mean we should obsess over the attention given to the case and forget the actual issue at hand. I'm going to out on a limb and say that Alex W. was a xenophobe who probably was more or less an isolated case, even though the political climate in Europe stands to produce countless other Alex W's.

Marwa al-Sherbini's message is that of humanity and perseverance. She wasn't about to let one fanatical maniac prevent her or her family from achieving their dreams and hopes. The countless Muslims who have come to praise her cause are disregarding what she stood up for by making blatant and sometimes racist comments about Germans or non-Muslims in the west. Her husband was visited in the hospital by Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Jewish Council in Germany. His statements about the situation did more justice to the case than those of Muslims who chanted "Death to Germany", among other slogans.

"You don't have to be Muslim to oppose anti-Muslim behavior, and you don't have to be Jewish to oppose anti-Semitism," said Kramer. "We must stand together against such inhumanity."

On July 11, a public memorial organized by local civil rights groups was held at Dresden City Hall to honor Marwa al-Sherbini. It was attended by over 1000 people, including state officials and many Germans who were appalled by the events. Tobias Weidlich, 29 who was joined by his two young daughters, expressed his shock, "The brutality and horror of this crime is unbelievable," he said. A placard held at the memorial read "Racism Kills".

Indeed, Marwa al-Sherbini took a stand against racism. Moreover, the actions of Alex W. and those who take part in racist attacks seek to instill a fear in the victims and in society, a fear so intimidating that it will stop us from addressing such problems. Alex W.'s attack wasn't just against Muslims, but against all decent and civilized people, and the response shown at the memorial proved that intolerance will not triumph.

The question now remains: how do we as a society ensure that Marwa al-Sherbini's son grows up in a world free of the hatred that stole his mother from him?

May Allah bless Sister Marwa and give her family ease during their time of hardship. May he reward her for her actions and for her martyrdom. Ameen.

Is this story new to you or have you heard about it before now? Why do you think it has not been broad casted around the world? Do you think this story would be more popular if it happened to a non-Muslim woman? Leave your comment and tell us what you think.

Asalaamu alaikum
Najwa & Nadira


  1. I have heard this before. Two days after it happened.
    The reason it was not broadcasted was, because the western people would not want to want to be entitled as the "bad guys" and the muslims in this case "the victims." It has to be, according to them, portrayed in the opposite way. Had this been a non.Muslim woman attacked by a muslim man, words like terrorist or islamist or the like would have covered every inch of this planet regarding that incident.
    It is extremely tragic that her son is now left alone and in the care of his extended family.
    What is even more sad is the fact that I shared this with my non-Muslim and Muslim friends (did I mention I live in Germany?!) and they did not reply. One only said,"This sucks."
    Hearing these replies I knew I would not get them to understand. To them, Muslims are suicide bombers trying to prevent peace from spreading in this world. How is one to live in such a country?
    Ironically, Germany has the highest rate of people converting to Islam. Unfortunately, I do no live in that region.
    Please share this sad, sad incident with everyone. It is our duty!

  2. ameen...
    I remember this story subhanAllah!

  3. Muslim or not - this is a tragedy! A child left motherless because of what???? I do not care what religion a person is - what happened to love???? I shall continue to say if it is ok for a woman to wear the least of clothing and the law respect her, then a woman should be able to wear the most of clothing and that law still respect her as well!!!
    Muslims are NOT terrorists!!! Terrorists are terrorists - pure and simple. You have them of different religions and different races but bottom line: hate is hate. May The Most High bless and keep this family in such a time as this. May The Most High keep us all and help us all to remember - the greatest power on earth is not hate; it is love.
    Peace, Salaam, Shalom, Hotep, Deuces whatever gets the point across... :-)!

  4. i agree with the first comment. if the man was muslim and she was a christian it would be all over the news. but then again even if this story was well known american people wouldnt really care

  5. Salaams,

    This is the first time I've heard about this case. It's difficult to describe the anger and sadness I feel after reading this, not just as a Muslimah, but as a human being. Whether he was motivated by hatred for Muslims or was merely angry that she had brought him to court, what he did to that poor woman and her family is pure evil. Insha'Allah, he will answer for his crimes on the day of judgment.

    I totally agree that one needn't be Muslim to feel outraged by this rampant Islamophobia. Even before I came to Islam, I was horrified by the hatred and ignorance Muslims have faced, particularly after 9/11. Must one be black to oppose slavery? Of course not. We are all human, created by Allah (SWT) as equals -- injustice must not be tolerated, no matter who is on the receiving end.

  6. Salam aleikoum,

    I heard about it, and I can't forget it. But you know, unfortunately she isn't the only case. I live in France, and yes indeed you can see the difference of treatment towards an attack OF a muslim and BY a muslim. A man was attacked and killed a few months ago, beaten to death by a group of young people (who we know are Jews teens) because he was a muslim. And you know what? Media talked about that, like 2 seconds the day after, and left the topic.
    And at the contrary, there's this endless topic of Lies Hebbadj and his various wives, about whom the media don't stop talking.
    One hand: a man is killed.
    Other hand: a man is presumed being a polygamist.
    I really can't stand it anymore! It's like if there was men who deserved more media coverage than others.
    Elhemdoulillah we know that the truth will put Marwa far above all those who killed her a second time.

  7. How ironic... Because a woman covers herself and respects herself she is killed. And when a woman is showing all she has gotten, then it's alright. This world's mind is just so perverted. No one has love in their hearts anymore. All minds are too corrupted. Too busy with Shaitaan. And very true, if she was killed by a muslim man, this news would be all over, calling muslims terrorists.

  8. I remember this story. May Allah(SWT) have mercy on her. Ameena ya Rabbi. You cannot depend only on American news, this story was covered world wide and allot of blogger like myself made sure to blog about it. We as people in USA need to start looking beyond our national news. SubhanaAllah, there are many news outlets on the net that are free of charge. For instance, bbc world news, aljazeera (in English and other languages) and etc. Anyways, JazakAllahu Khairan to the sisters of Muslimah2Muslimah for this posting. May Allah(SWT)reward you all. Ameen. Masalaam

  9. hey najwa . i replied to u on my blog and also sent u a separate email. u dint reply to both. do chk ur junk email or else i will post it here again..!!

  10. from HJUK

    @ Anonymous - i agree with you 100% about terrorist is terrorist. What people need to understand is that whether a person beat up someone, slice/cut them, ran them over with a car, spit at them, fight them, stealing, etc that all falls under terrorist and I dont care what others think but unfortunately reporters, journalisms, ignorant people who came up with this decides to label them as terrorist. If you look at the daily crimes do u see the majority of criminals muslim???? c'mon are they that dumb not to see that?????

  11. Wow her memorial was on my birthday ~ and I only just now read this post. I missed it!
    I vividly remember this story. It is a testament of the violent racism in Europe that bubbles just beneath the "tolerance" and "open mindedness" surface.

  12. so sad to read this :( and shocked this happen in Germany

  13. Salaam sisters

    i think this is digusting, I live in England and I have never heard of this before and it makes sense as they wouldnt want the muslim to be the victams, plan and simple.

    I know im a bit late, but only just found this website
    love what u sisters are doing, this is what ppl like me need.

    I am not a sister yet, but i am looking for guidance, and i know this website will lead me in the right direction.

    i knw how to say thank you in arabic, just dont knw how to spell it, would rather not embarrass myself.loool

    Thanks anyway.
    please send me articles or anything to make me understand the phophets and so on.


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