Islamophobia in Germany? Berlin wakes up after outcry over killing

July 13, 2009

German politicians have woken up to the potential fallout from the bloody killing in a Dresden courtroom of a 31-year-old Egyptian mother which has unleashed anger in the Islamic world.

It took Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has talked much about boosting the integration of Germany’s roughly 3.5 million Muslims, several days to condemn the killing, perpetrated by a German of Russian origin suspected of being a neo-Nazi.

dresdenSuddenly, the government is trying to soothe tensions to avert a potential storm similar to the violence which erupted over Denmark’s publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad. And less than three-months before an election, politicians are also worried about security — intelligence services say Germany is already a target due to its deployment of troops in Afghanistan.

(Photo: Memorial gathering in Dresden – sign says “Racism kills,” 11 July 2009/Fabrizio Bensch)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the U.N. should condemn Germany for the killing. Last week, hundreds of mourners in Alexandria, Egypt, protested at the funeral of the slain woman, Marwa El-Sherbiny. Egyptian media have made much of the incident and some Egyptians have even called for a boycott of German products.

“Germany has no room for xenophobia or Islamophobia,” Merkel’s spokesman told reporters when pressed on the subject at a news conference, adding political failings had not led to the killing. Some politicians attended a memorial ceremony for the victim at the weekend.

However, the tragedy has raised questions — about the police, as well as politicians’, response.

The July 1 killing took place in a court where Marwa El-Sherbiny, pregnant and a mother of a three-year-old, was testifying against the attacker. He was appealing his conviction for insulting her by calling her an “Islamist”, “terrorist” and “slut” when she asked him to make room for her son to play on swings in a playground.

marwa-bannerThe killer not only stabbed her 18 times but also stabbed her husband. To make matters worse, police officers shot the husband, mistaking him for the attacker. He was in a coma for several days.

(Photo: Karachi protest against murder, 10 July 2009/Athar Hussain)

When Merkel fails to respond quickly to hate-crimes like this one, or woos her largely Catholic Christian Democrats (CDU) by saying that mosque minarets should be no taller than church steeples, she risks undoing some of the goodwill she has fostered with her official dialogue with Germany’s Muslim community.

Some groups, including the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, say Islamophobia has long been a phenomenon and want Merkel to describe the killing as a “brutal, racist, Islamophobic murder”.

Even the German media is only starting to link the attack to xenophobic attitudes.

Could this incident unleash an outburst of violence? And to what extent do you think Germans are conditioned to accept a degree of Islamophobia?

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

thre are 3 issues here: a murder in a courtroom; so-called “islamophobia;” and tardy government responses to atrocities. the first and third are simply inexcusable; the second is a farce, especially given the islamic world’s penchant for freely spilling nonmuslim blood. Phobias are irrational fears; 911, fatwas, and other mayhem result in legitimate fears of thuggery in religious garb and language. again, this in no wise condones murder anywhere, but the islamic world need to look less at germany and more in its bathroom mirror for examples of atrocity and trampling asunder of human rights

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

JD, whils I agree that the Muslim world needs to take a long hard look itself, to talk of an “Islamic” penchant for spilling nonmuslim blood is fallacious and inaccurate. On one hand more muslim blood is split than nonmuslim and when nonmuslim blood *is* split, it is at the hands of lunatic fringe elements and not the mainstream muslim world as you imply. Further, you fail to take into account the large number of attrocities committed against the muslim world by foreigners.You also claim islamophobia is a farce and then go on to describe why it exists. Which is it?

Posted by May | Report as abusive

The attack was simply brutal and xenophobic. The fact that it took days to condemn is questionable by itself.Stabbing 18 times a pregnant woman inside a COURTroom, and the police to interfere after the husband only to shot the husband himself is just puzzling. This would remain to be a black dot in the history of Germany.

Posted by Ethiopian | Report as abusive

may: perhaps i failed to make myself clear, but i did differentiate between a phobia and a legitimate fear; what is commonly called “islamophobia” is no phobia at all, but a legitimate fear based upon observed behaviour. as for which party spills the most blood, please inform me as to: the status of honour killings and execution of religious dissenters in the west; how the turkish pm (rightly) condemns red china’s treatment of the uighurs after he feted al bashir; shiite-sunni mayhem in iraq; etc ad nasueam. i do not deny that the west’s hands aren’t clean, but do assert that the west has behaved out of accordance with its values when acting atrociously, whilst the saudis and sudanese governments act within their values whilst acting atrociously. even turkey pussyfoots on honour killings; when did the west last have a massacre like the one in bilge?

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

jd, please put the topic in perspective. if you want to talk many historical events, it won’t stop. anybody can pick any inter-religious clash events: the holocaust, the crusade, the china-tibetan conflict, the roman persecution of christians, intifada, spanish inquisition, you name it. so please stop naming unrelated events to this.put this german case on the table.islamophobia does exist, so does anti-western sentiment in moslem world, so does neo-nazi, so does american ultra nationalism, etc. just open your blind eye to see them clearly.what I can’t believe in this case is the way german politicians and security cannot say “YES, WE HAVE MADE MISTAKE AND WE ARE SORRY”.to the german media, they are very biased.

Posted by el | Report as abusive

I can’t believe this happened 15 days ago and I only heard about today.can you imaging if the stabbed woman was jewish?? Germany would be begging for forgiveness from the Jewish community. The US, Canada, UK and all europe would condemn the Germans for the fact that this happened inside their courts, The killer would be probably dead by now. his family would be first to denounce him (just like the elderly American who was taken to Germany for Nazi crimes recently and was denounce by his own children, despite that he was elderly and frail)I have to admit, I lost hope in a muslim country to be just or to stop killings. but a in country like is Germany, where troops are sent to protect values of freedom and justice, it is just unbelievable!!!JD, I agree somewhat with what you said. however, the fear based on legitimate behavior is highly highlighted and exaggerated by the media. it has nothing to do with true islamic is like tying Timothy McVeigh to christian faith. no body does it. but when a bunch of lunatics commit murder and happen to be muslim, it is all about how islam is religion of hate and killing. what a shame!May Allah count the victim among martyrs and give patience to her husband and child.We belong to Allah and to him we all return!

Posted by Hamid | Report as abusive

Every year in Germany, dozens of Muslimas are being ferociously murdered by their fathers, husbands, brothers or cousins in the name of “honour”. What do those who today so loudly and demonstratively condemn the murder have to say about all those other crimes? At best nary a peep. On the contrary, quite often they even spend a lot of time formulating excuses for those responsible of the slaughter and systematically obfuscate the roots of their bloody motivation. My conclusion is that in their eyes, murdering Muslimas by itself is not really a problem, it’s only who the murderer is that bothers them.That is a stunning and disgusting conclusion.My post is dedicated to all those Muslimas that have been savagely murdered by their own family because they were deemed not to lead a life according to the teachings of Islam.

Posted by What are you really bothered about? | Report as abusive

“What are you really bothered about?”, your logic is really making me laugh a loud. When the system that you believed so-called free and democratic made a terrible mistake, you just simply cannot admit that mistake. Now you’re throwing the blame to moslem ???Read the news, pal! Thousands of people got murdered by their family and friends moslem or non-moslems in German or anywhere else by any reasons you can name. That’s really totally unrelated to this case.You see, your understanding to this problem is so low and makes me sick.“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action,” that what Goethe said.

Posted by Bothered by ignorant people | Report as abusive

1. The problem is the islamophobia and the silent backing of government agencies for the atrocities against Muslims.2. Angela was so diligent is commenting about the death of Nadia suleman in Iran where she was killed in Public(which they will be getting least protection)3. Here Marwas was killed in a court room in which they should be getting the maximum protection for thier stands4. This itself proves the German Chacellor’s Hypocrisy.> being in a counrt room didn’t prevented them from doing this atrocities.> Being a claimant didn’t prevented them> Being in a place which requires 100% protection didn’t prevented them> Being a woman didn’t preveneted them> Being a pregnant womman didn’t prevented them> Being a mom of a 3year old didn’t prevented them> Still they say, the dress code which she opted is preventing her from enjoying the freedom.> what is the freedom you talk about Mrs: Angela and Sarkosy.> Still they support and supply weapons to kill muslims.> Still they say they are not responsible for the murder> Still they prevent press from Reporting the incident.> Still they are interested in finding the faults in the dress which muslim women wear when they can’t protect a woman in a court room!!!!!!!!!!!!> Is this an Open and Liberal Country or a terror nation????>Due to this reason I don’t respect Germans> German’s please don’t expect any respect from my side anymore

Posted by MB | Report as abusive

Many of the commenters are naive at best and hypocrites at worse. This was a tragedy and the violator will no doubt be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, anyone who believes the German government harbors anti-Muslim sentiment is wildly out of touch with reality.The very fact that the criminal was already serving time for insulting the victim’s Islamic faith is proof that Germany treats it’s Muslim citizens with more respect than any Muslim country in the world (including Turkey) grants to non-Muslims. The German and EU government just paid half the construction costs of the newly constructed largest mosque in Germany.* There are 3 to 4 million Muslims free to practice their faith in Germany, and the current Chancellor has openly spoken of improving conditions for the Turkish minority.Compare that to the status of Christians, Hindus, or Jews in any Muslim nation. Persecution is when homes are destroyed and families set on fire while the government turns a blind eye, as happened in Pakistan. Or when the government’s official publications deride a faith group as sub-human. If you want to know true persecution, talk to a Coptic Christian in Egypt or Iranian Jew (both of whom are descended from local faith groups older than the Islam). Ask them the last time someone faced criminal charges for criticizing their faith, or if they have sympathies for the “plight” of European Muslims.* This is baffling to me as an American. I don’t understand how one cent of taxpayer money can be contributed to a house of worship of any faith.

Posted by chg | Report as abusive

This woman’s murder is horrible, and if the Europeans had the same sense as most U.S. states, this man would be sentenced to death. However, he will face a maximum sentence of 12 years or so in prison where he can spread his hate.Islam is not a peaceful religion. What are you really bothered about has it right. Only the evil westerners are upset about “honor killings.” If you are living in a foreign country, you have to follow the local customs. Westerners don’t slaughter their daughters for showing their elbows and ankles in public, or Allah forbid, marrying someone the father hasn’t pre-arranged. The trite “It is only a few radicals” argument is really tiring because it is so false.

Posted by hmmm | Report as abusive