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Egyptian Marwa al-Sherbini was stabbed 18 times and killed in a German courtroom last Wednesday during legal proceedings against a man who had accused her of being a terrorist for wearing a headscarf.
The isolated incident, perpetrated by a man whom authorities have identified only as Alex W., has unleashed a torrent of anti-Western sentiment in Egypt. The attack reaffirmed long-held beliefs by Muslims in this part of the world that the West harbors bigoted views towards Islam, and the protests and denunciations have only grown louder with each passing day.
The arrival of Sherbini’s body in Egypt on Monday injected renewed rage into demonstrations in Cairo and in the victim’s hometown of Alexandria.
“What would Germany do if it had been a German woman?” yelled one man at a rally in front of the German embassy in Cairo, according to local media.
The case stemmed from an incident in which Sherbini, on a visit to a local playground in Dresden with her 3-year-old son, allegedly fell victim to slander (Alex W. called her a terrorist). Sherbini sued and won, and was in court undergoing appeals when the defendant attacked her with a knife.
Sherbini’s husband, Elwi Ali Okaz, was stabbed and accidentally shot by police, when he tried to intervene. He remains in critical condition.
Sherbini’s family, as well as protesters, has accused German security forces of acting negligently during the courtroom attack. They’ve maintained that Alex W.’s crime was representative of Western views towards Islam. Egyptian media has also criticized the West for not adequately covering the murder in the press.
Islamist groups have taken the reins of the protest, leading Tuesday’s march in front of the German embassy. The Muslim Brotherhood has been quick to try to drive a cultural wedge between East and West, playing on Egyptians’ deeply rooted mistrust of the West and associated deep-seated insecurities.