This was written by Beverly M. Weber for Muslimah Media Watch.
“She became a victim of Islamophobia and xenophobia. She responded with dignity and exemplary civil courage.” – Plaque in memorial to Marwa el-Sherbini, located in the foyer of the Saxony Provincial Court
The murder of Marwa el-Sherbini in July 2009 sparked an intense, long-overdue discussion about Islamophobia and racism in Germany. These discussions have often included critical attention to the media’s role in creating negative images of Islam in Germany and Europe.
However, at the first anniversary of el-Sherbini’s death, these discussions continue to fall short of truly challenging the gendered constructions of Islam in Germany. The official memorial in honor of el-Sherbini acknowledges her civic courage, a concept that evokes a particular commitment to democratic participation and human rights in the German context. Yet the dominant discussions relegate el-Sherbini to a victim position, obscuring the important work done every day by Muslim activists to challenge the wide range of violence experienced by Muslim women in Germany today.
While El-Sherbini’s murder quickly gained international attention as an example of growing European Islamophobia, the national German press did not react to the case for nearly a week. The Central Council of Jews in Germany and the German Central Council of Muslims gave public statements condemning the crime, but Christian organizations and federal and local officials were slow to react publicly to the murder. By the time German officials and media did respond, el-Sherbini had been dubbed a “hijab martyr” in Egypt and Iran, and her death declared the first Islamophobic murder in Germany.
Media coverage a year after el-Sherbini’s death continues to portray her almost exclusively as a victim. [Read more...]