July 10th, 2009
10:30 PM ET

Her only crime was the veil

Octavia Nasr
AC360° Contributor
CNN Senior Mideast Affairs Editor

Marwa is already dubbed the “Hijab Martyr.” Many believe she was murdered because she’s Muslim and wears her religion on her head in a Hijab, the Muslim head cover. Her heinous cold-blooded murder in a Germany courtroom has sent shockwaves across the Middle East and now it is spreading across the world.

Marwa was 31 and three months pregnant, when she appeared at a Dresden courtroom to testify against a man who had already been convicted of verbally attacking her by calling her a “terrorist” at a playground with her 3-year-old son. Instead of justice, Marwa and her family were met by a tragic fate.

On July 1st, in the Dresden courtroom, the same man identified only as Alex M. stabbed her 18 times in front of her son and husband. As her husband tried to defend her, he got his share of the stabbing and he was shot by a police officer who mistook him for the assailant. Marwa later died in the hospital. Her husband is still in critical condition.

Two Egyptian researchers at Dresden University, Mohammed Ahmed Khalif and Magdi Khalil, told CNN that on that fateful day, their trust in Germany was shattered.

"We have fear about our family here, about our children” said Khalif. He said he is disappointed by what he believes is a muted response by the German public and its politicians.

Khalil agrees with Khalif. He adds that some people in Germany could possibly harbor an anti-Muslim sentiment. He suggested twisting this around to see how people would react to the same story. “What do you think if we have an Egyptian guy who kills a German woman in a court? What do you think would happen,” he asked.

Germany’s government spokesperson Thomas Steg stressed that, “In Germany we cannot tolerate, right wing extremism, hatred of foreigners nor Islamophobia."

For many in Egypt and across the Middle East, this response came late and wasn’t enough.

Egyptians mourned the death of Marwa with shock and outrage. As it is customary in the Middle East when someone dies young, the 31-year-old pregnant mother was buried in a procession fit for a bride, while across the nation people continue to take to the streets in sympathy.

Underneath the sadness of mourning, anger is brewing at what people in the Middle East call a hate crime. They are moved by news reports of how Marwa died.

Many have taken to the streets, waving banners that call her stabbing death a hate crime and that it’s racially motivated. They say Marwa was killed because she's Muslim and wore the Muslim headscarf.

When they felt their calls for justice were going unnoticed, Egyptians along with other Arabs and supporters from around the world, took to the Internet, which has become the voice for the voiceless in the Middle East region.

On Twitter, they asked for sympathizers to spread the message that a life was lost and they want the world to pay attention.

They accused the media of failing to highlight the murder.

They criticized Europe in general and Germany in particular for becoming increasingly extreme towards minorities, especially Muslims.

And on Facebook, they asked for justice; calling for the harshest possible sentence for the assailant and an apology from Germany. They created pages where people can pay homage to a woman who has now become known simply as the "Martyr of the Hijab."

Filed under: 360° Radar • Middle East • Octavia Nasr
soundoff (274 Responses)
  1. For not Ray

    "She was targeted because she practices a peaceful, non-violent religion. "

    As much as I agree with you on your overall assessment, I must point out a simple fact. The above statement is COMPLETELY WRONG!. She was not targeted becausee of her peaceful religious habits. She was in fact killed as a direct result of punishing the innocent for acts done by extremists of her own religion.
    Every act is accountable. Let this creep who murdered her get his just punishment, but don't fool yourself into believing she was anything more than a martyr for the wicked practices of others, that she did not live by. Let them also pay for their own actions-without innocent people being blamed or caught in the cross fire.

    July 13, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  2. Madiha

    Ray...What a pathetic thing to say! And THANK U all for supporting muslims. I just don't understand that why is that when Muslims practice their religion, they are beaten to death or they are accused of doing wrong?? I have never seen people belonging to other religion being beaten like that. Why are Muslims not given freedom for practicing their own religion?
    This hideous act has really killed me from inside. If people from other religion are free to do anything, then why muslims are not allowed to go on streets and practice their religion..they are not harming anyone. Whenever there is a terrorist act, Muslims are blamed for this! Who knows that who is behind all this? Only, God Almighty is aware of all this.
    I am a Muslim and I am proud to be one.
    Thank U all for supporting MUslims.

    July 13, 2009 at 4:59 am |
  3. J.V.Hodgson

    Your article and the bloggers concentrate on hate, religious differences which is where you the media led them.
    I have just a few of simple questions:-
    1) How did a defendant get into court carrying a knife!?
    2) How did he get close enough to his accuser to carry out this horrible act??
    3) The security guards could not differentiate between the husband and the defendant and shot him... oops indefensible!!??
    Whether the attacker is muslim or of any faith he is unwelcome in either paradise or heaven.
    Despite the atrocity of the act it is not and cannot be an international incident, but the act of a depraved individual who should not in a Court ( anywhere) have had the opportunity irrespective of the case before the court and the religious beliefs of the defendant or prosecutors, be able to use a knife!!
    Otto Beez ,your last paragraph hits the real button here,irrespective of the "garbages" religion.

    July 13, 2009 at 1:40 am |
  4. Leeloo

    I am astonished reading some of the comments. Muslims, Christians , Jews, the world has become a very bad place. Religion is supposed to better people not to make them racist and ignorant.

    So what if she was wearing the veil, does this make her a terrorist?

    People are talking about Copts being prosecuted and killed, and Tourists targeted. How about the thousand of Iraqis who were deemed collateral damage by the so called Christian US government, or the Massacres in Bosnia . If we start keeping a record who killed who no one would win, we would find out that history makes us all losers. it goes both ways. i think out of respect we should mourn this lady because we are humans, and it was a heinous crime. Not because she is Muslim or Christian. Please we do not want to start another era where one of group of people is prosecuted because of their beliefs, remember we are in the 21st century not in the dark ages.

    July 12, 2009 at 6:34 pm |
  5. D, A Tennessee

    I red most of the commints on this page I feel sorry for the family of the victims loosing somebody is never easy but I have a few questions
    1. how was the suspect able to stab the women
    2. was he surched before intering the courtroom
    3. why wasent the gaurd close to the woman
    4. how did the gaurd get the husben and the attacker confused when the attacker stabbed both of them in front of every body in the room and shoot the wrong man? how far away was he
    but I feel sorry for the child he will NEVER for get that day.

    to mr. jackson you are angry at the musilms because of the terrorrist
    and they get what they deserve well what about us thairs the KKK, neo notzis, gangs ect. hear in USA but lets go back farther didnt the white man kill the Indians and take their land the GREAT CHIFE RED CLOUD once said ( THE WHITE MAN MADE MANY PROMISES MORE THAN WHAT HE KEPT. BUT HE DID KEEP ONE PROMISE HE PROMISED TO TAKE OUR LAND AND HE DID ) their are many forms of terrorrism depends on your deffianition of being a terrorrist look at the muary building out west it was bomed by an american he killed women, children, men why he was mad at the government now should all americans be juged by a few? I thank not
    to the family of the victoms im sorry for your loss and I will pray to my god that the father of the son will recover and they both can find peace in their life

    July 12, 2009 at 2:04 pm |
  6. Robin

    This woman was called a terrorist and subsequently murdered because she wears a hijab. Millions of women everywhere wear a scarf on their heads. The only reason she was singled out is because of the REASON she wears one, her religion. This is pathetic and unbelievable. It is downright wrong to blame a person or a religion for the acts of a few bad people. Lots of crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity. Should all Christians be blamed? Absolutely not. Also, there are no "violent" passages in the Quran. If read correctly one would see that it all fits together. Some Muslims have said there are violent passages in the Bible, so should Christians renounce all those? Of course not because we know when you read it all together it is not violent, same as the Quran. Plain and simple people, Islam is just another way to worship God. Leave Muslims alone!!!

    July 12, 2009 at 7:18 am |
  7. Donna

    As an american/german/ISLAMIC WOMAN IN A VAIL. this hatred is all around the world. People are afraid about what they do not know or understand. As for many of you I feel pity and pain for you. You need to pick up a book and read about Islam before you talk. There are many things which you seem to not understand. When you have read any book about islam you will see woman are not killed for the mans sin of rape. Nor is it right for a father to kill his daughter. How quick we are to judge that which we do not know nor understand.Everyone in the world has the right to practice there own faith. As for those of you who say not to let them in your country. Many of them are from these countrys already will you kick people out of there own homes as in world war 2 and the palestinians. People wake up. This act happen because of this man was guilty of something he did and was now caught.

    July 12, 2009 at 3:15 am |
  8. amy

    for all you haters out there, let's get down to the basics here – murder is murder.
    and it becomes more heinous when its done to a pregnant woman in front of her family in a courtroom nonetheless.
    whatever your inclinations or religion, wherever you're from – this is a CRIME against humanity

    July 12, 2009 at 2:17 am |
  9. cari

    Ray and Wills, oh my gosh are you ignorant!! I was born and raised in America, both parents are German. For you to say " Stay in a Muslim country if you want to look and act like a Muslim. Your insistance to maintain your visible religious beliefs are now stirring up trouble everywhere.:" this is just plain ignorant. My dear Wills, America is a great melting pot, land of the free, home of the brave, home to many religions and we are all FREE to practice our religions. Practicing Islam does not hurt anyone, it's a very peaceful religion. I converted to Islam 6 years ago and I am free to look and act Muslim here in America....so deal with it, and go out and get an education while you are at it!!!!!

    July 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm |
  10. Tasneem Bhatti

    I hope people can be more open minded and have respect for other people's beliefs so the world can be a better place.

    July 11, 2009 at 4:49 pm |
  11. Nicole

    My heart goes out to this woman's family, especially her young son who had to witness such senseless violence!

    July 11, 2009 at 4:39 pm |
  12. Mike

    This was an innocent woman testifying in a court of law and she was brutally murdered in front of her family and witnesses. Then the cops shot her husband! This is an outrage. Don't even try comparing this with terrorists killing people, there is no comparison. This was a hate crime, pure and simple.

    July 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm |
  13. mir

    I pray that 3 year old son of late Marwa should not become a suicide bomber.Now we can understand that how these bombers are produced.

    July 11, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  14. Jeanne

    I agree with Ray. These ridiculous women should take off the head coverings, and all the muslims should keep their religion to themselves and assimilate into western culture if they want to live in western societies. I think the French have it right. But...why wasn't the German courthouse electronically screened for weapons? How did this man enter a courtroom with a knife?

    July 11, 2009 at 11:58 am |
  15. Sandy

    My sympathy goes out to Marwa her family and friends.
    This is an unbelievable crime!
    But tell me, how in the world is it possible for the defendant in the courtroom to stab Marwa 18 times before he is stopped?!
    Beside the horrible deed itself that is just outrageous!!
    I sincerely hope that measures are taken all over Germany to prevent such a thing from ever happening again!

    July 11, 2009 at 11:51 am |
  16. T. Dekkers

    This was a terrible and despicable act by all human standards. However the selective indignation out of the muslim world does not make a big impression on me. It will only, if I hear the same outcries from these critics over atrocities committed by muslims in the name of their religion, that we have seen far too often in recent history.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  17. Sunil

    For generations Muslims hate other religions and killed thousands of Christians ,Hindus ,Buddhists and others.
    I am sorry for this murder, anyhow killings for religions is unacceptable. Muslims must put their house in order before asking others to do so as they have more blood in their hands than others.
    They say they go to heaven by murdering other religious people.Very same people ask others not do so. What a pity

    July 11, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  18. Sherif

    First of all, hijab martyr is an overrated & silly title. her death is tragic & underlines the xenophobic wave still present in Germany.
    Secondly, the Hijab is not & never was part of Islam.
    Thirdly, you cannot condemn all germans because of one lunatic. Egyptians who do that fail to see their own hypocrisy. Arabs & muslims are always calling on the west not to condemn them with sole terrorists.
    Fourth,--> richard h. levenson. Your remarks are exaggerated & reek of ignorance, I can enumerate the more violent history of Europe, or the racist system that lingered in the US till the mid 60's! for your information, muslims, jews & christians lived in relative peace together for over 1350 years. They did not wipe out one another, & muslims were persecuted along with christians & jews by various dynasties & rulers. i wish some would know what they are talking about.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  19. Terencio

    No way. Stop this "Islam is Peace", stuff. It's not. It's no more peace than Christianity is peace. Yeah, it's awful that one wrongheaded individual managed to kill another human being, but anyone who practices ANY religion that has as much blood on it's hands as Islam is asking for it. I'm not singling out Islam, but religion kills folks, dead. I'm sorry that both the killer and the victim were so misguided. Keep your faith to yourself, and assimilate into the society you have chosen to live in.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:47 am |
  20. lina

    This poor woman was killed because of her religion, but whoever says that in the middle east people from europe has been killed (although this is sick too), they were not killed because of their religion. People in the midle east have problems but they don't hate a certain race or country, i live in egypt & i'm shocked when i hear about what people keep on saying about the coptic muslim conflict, we live peacfully together but sometimes accidents happen, it's not a big deal cause the majority lives peacfully a normal life. We are all shocked cause Marwa was killed infront of her son in a court because she was a muslim, this was the killer's only reason, and what made it worse is when the guards came, they shot her husand just because he looks middle eastern. God bless her soul.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  21. pete

    Part of the reason we have trouble with middle eastern muslims is that it always about the martyr. Every time they kill it's about martyrism and any time they are killed it's about martyrism.

    So long as revenge play such a big role in muslim culture there will never be peace among muslims or with others.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  22. Jim Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    Anyone that has to disguise their appearance, be they muslims or even police officers in "tactical squads" is up to no good. Many places have laws againss even motorcyclists wearing helmets with dark visors that conceal their faces.

    The Islamic world will have to stop screaming in outrage every time one of their "rules" is violated. If they truly wish to avoid a war between muslims and everyone else, they will have to learn to be more tolerant.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:17 am |
  23. Kenya

    It's sad that this injustice happened. Unfortunately, injustice is so common in the world. For Muslims, they will always talk about Israel and Palestine and how they are being taken advantage of. But yet their people commit terror in countries like Sudan and acts of terrorism and some of them actually celebrate. After 9/11 there were so many muslims demostrating in joy in so many capitals in the world (check the news for yourself if you're doubtful).
    If Muslims want to receive any real sympathy they must also be seen to be doing right themselves. This crime is no less than when women in Darfur are raped and their husbands killed by Muslims – and no Muslims raise a voice against these injustices. It's only when a Palestinian or Arab in a western capital goes through injustice that they complain. So top the hypocrisy and people will probably feel true sympathy for you.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:08 am |
  24. alice

    I am an American living in Egypt and when anyone says why didn' she stay in her country and dress like she wants instead of dressing this way in an non majority Muslim country....well, everyday, I see ppl dressed with hardly anything on. Clothes that make me blush as an American. Most of these ppl are European. Does that not apply to them. An Egyptian woman would never dress so and this is the culture here so should Europeans who are on vacation here not dress like that and put on an higab? See, how silly it all sounds. Killing is killing, no mattter the race or religion. Come on now, lets be logical.

    July 11, 2009 at 10:04 am |
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