Islamophobia in Germany? Berlin wakes up after outcry over killing
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.
Suddenly, 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.
(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?