Letter for Marwa

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

marwa sherbini wedding
Egyptian Marwa El-Sherbini and her husband.

The following touching letter was published in the August 2009 edition of the Muslim Link in honour of the late Marwa El Sherbiny:

On July 1st, 2009 my friend, Marwa El Sherbiny, was killed in a German courtroom. She was there to bear witness against a man who had harassed her in a Dresden park where she was playing with her infant son. This man had called her a terrorist because she wore the hijab, the Islamic headscarf. Marwa had chosen to defend her rights and her dignity by taking legal action. She won the libel case and was in court again to testify at the appeal. Before she had the chance to do so, the same man pulled out a knife and stabbed her to death. She was 32.

When I first heard the news, all I felt was shock and anger. Anger that such a dear person was gone at such a young age; anger that her young son no longer had a mother to hold him tight. Anger that this is what ignorant, senseless hatred has brought us to. I’m angry that careless politicians, spouting fearful rhetoric, created a climate where a mother could be murdered in front of her son, in a court of law, and our society responds with a deafening silence. I imagine I will continue to feel angry for a long time to come, but constantly piercing through that anger, and often overshadowing it, is the memory of a beautiful, kind face and a tender heart.

I met Marwa in 2000 on the first of many trips to her home city of Alexandria, Egypt. One of my strongest memories from that first visit to Egypt was seeing Marwa after she had just decided to start wearing the hijab. As a “westerner” and an outsider I was shocked by her transformation, but not for the reasons one might expect. I was stunned because she was absolutely beautiful. It was not that she wasn’t beautiful before, because she was, only it had become a different sort of beauty. She shined. She looked like an angel. And Marwa was an angel in every way: incredibly strong and extraordinarily gentle. One of the first times I was struck by the beauty of Islam was when I saw it reflected in her face. I will miss one of the most generous souls that I was fortunate enough to be touched by.

Marwa had the strength to stand up for the truth, to stand against discrimination and hatred. She is an example to all Muslim women, like myself, who have silently faced the kind of insults that are sadly becoming a more common reality. Her action was an action to protect us all. I hope and pray that we can follow her example so that her struggle, her loss, will not be in vain.

I will pray for her, I will pray for her little boy, I will pray for her husband, and brother, and mother, and father, and friends – and I will pray for a better world for all of us.

Julia Williams,
Ottawa

11-35

Hijab Martyr

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Egypt funeral for court stabbing victim

veil-martyr

Sherbini’s body was returned to Egypt from Germany for the funeral in Alexandria [AFP]

An official funeral has been held for a pregnant Egyptian woman stabbed to death as she prepared to give evidence in a German courtroom.

Several government representatives took part in the funeral for 32-year-old Marwa Sherbini in the northern city of Alexandria on Monday.

Sherbini was stabbed 18 times by a German man of Russian descent, formally identified only as Axel W, last week as she was about to give evidence against him as he appealed against his conviction for calling her a “terrorist” for her wearing the hijab.

Her three-year-old son, Mustapha, witnessed the knife attack on his mother, who was three months pregnant with her second child.

‘Hijab Martyr’

Sherbini’s husband, Elwi Ali Okaz, an Egyptian academic, was also critically injured as he tried to protect her.

Al Jazeera’s Rawyeh Rageh, reporting from Alexandria, said that the case had attracted huge attention in Egypt.

“The local council here in Alexandria, the victim’s hometown, has decided to name a street after her and the press is describing her as the ‘Hijab Martyr’,” she said.

“At least two protests are expected to take place in Alexandria and Cairo as this is being seen as a xenophobic and Islamophobic attack.

“People on the street and members of parliament are asking the government not to take the issue lightly.”

Hundreds of mourners gathered for the funeral, some chanting “Down with Germany” and scuffling with police, witnesses said.

‘Criminal act’

The German embassy in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, said that the attack was not a reflection of German attitudes towards Muslims.

“It is a criminal act. It has nothing to do with persecution against Muslims,” Magdi al-Sayed, a press officer, told the state-run Egyptian Gazette.

“People are looking for victims and Muslims are sometimes seen as a viable option”

Sulaiman Wilms, European Muslim Union

But Sulaiman Wilms, the head of communications at the European Muslim Union, said that the incident was at least partly representative of the situation faced by Muslims across the continent.

“It definitely reflects a certain spillover from certain elements of the public-media discourse, but it also reflects the general violence and degredation of order which we have within European societies in these times of global crisis,” he told Al Jazeera from Cologne.

“People are looking for victims and Muslims are sometimes seen as a viable option.”

Sherbini’s family have called for revenge following the deadly knife attack on Wednesday.

“If she was just stabbed once, I would have said this is a mad man, but the number of times she and her husband were stabbed reflects the extent of racism this man had in him,” Tarek Sherbini, the victim’s brother, said.

“Here in Egypt, we believe in ‘an eye for an eye’. The least we expect is the death penalty for the murderer.”

Source:     Al Jazeera and agencies