When hate kills in Germany and the media is silent

Early in July the story unfolds: A three months pregnant 32-year old woman is stabbed to death 18 times by a 28-year old man in front of her three-year-old son inside a courtroom and the judge is a witness. Her husband is shot by the court security guard as he tried to save his wife. He ends up in hospital in critical condition. The boy is taken out of the courtroom crying, "Where is Mum?"

The story did not get the extensive coverage it deserves by the media.

And no questions were posed: How the knife of the attacker was got into the courtroom? Why did the court security guard fire his gun at the husband? Why does the media insist that the husband was "accidentally" shot by the security guard in the courtroom as he tried to save his wife?

If the killer were a Muslim and the woman is a Jew the media will cover the story for months not days and every Western politician of any and all stripes would have condemned this hate crime.

We still remember the uproar by the Western media that followed the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-born Muslim angry over one of his films criticizing the treatment of Muslim women.

But the innocent woman was a Muslim. She was killed in cold blood by a white European in Germany. And for an unknown reason the court had forbid the release of his name in a court case involved his victim for calling her a terrorist.

Her husband was too a Muslim. The court guards’ reaction was to shoot at him as he attempted to get between his wife and her killer. The guard could not believe that a Muslim man was not the aggressor.

Marwa Al-Sherbini, her unborn baby, her three-year-old son and her husband are all victims of Islamophobia; Islamophobia in Western society, Islamophobia in Western courts, and Islamophobia in Western media.

Her murderer, earlier and still identified only as Alex W, had been found guilty of subjecting El-Sherbini to racial abuse and fined 780 euros (US$ 1100). He appealed the verdict, which is why they were in courtroom together. She was set to testify against him.

The Egyptian- born young mother was a pharmacist accompanying her husband as he pursues his graduate studies in Dresden. She was killed just because she is a Muslim. She was called "martyr" by her family and friends.

The crime "had anti-Islamic motives. [But] the reactions from politicians and media have been incomprehensibly meager," Aiman Mazyek, the general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims, told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel daily.

Only at its regular news conference and one week after the killing, Thomas Steg, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the crime as "horrible and outrageous." Nothing about hate, nothing about the spread of Islamophobia. Nothing.

Nearly ten days after the murder, Merkel expressed her condolences in a private talk with Egyptian President Hosni Muburak in the Italian city of L’Aquila during the G8 meeting.

German officials failed to acknowledge the Islamophobic nature of this hate crime. Court spokesman Christian Avenarius only said that the murderer was a "fanatical xenophobe." But he added that it was not "possible to say his actions were prompted by ‘Islamophobia’, nor that he was a far-right extremist."

Some media commentators blamed the origin of the attacker (he is a Russian immigrant of German descent) and others blamed the victim (she wears hijab – a head scarf).

But many activists consider it a hate crime, a human right issue and part of an ongoing battle against Western intolerance.

"You don’t have to be a Muslim to act against anti-Muslim behavior, and you don’t have to be a Jew to act against anti-Semitism," said Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews.

Kramer sees Sherbini’s death as a grim reminder of the prevailing Islamophobia in the West. "All those who dismissed Islamophobia as a false debate in recent years were wrong."

Islamophobia in the West has a devastating effect not only on Muslim minorities but also on every citizen who cares about the well-being of his / her country and it insidiously undermines every effort to sustain social and civil peace.

In her birth city of Alexandria, a street is now named after Marwa Al-Sherbini, a grim reminder for future generations that in 2009 Europe, Islamophobia was still alive.