A Russian-born German man was sentenced to life in prison last week for fatally stabbing a pregnant Egyptian woman in a courtroom last July.
The sentencing has been long-awaited since Alexander Wiens fatally stabbed the woman, who was a pharmacist, in the very same German courtroom where he was sentenced. Marwa al-Sherbini was described by family and friends as an upstanding citizen, and human rights activists and the Arab population worldwide decried the brutal murder of both her and her unborn child. After Wien's sentence was announced, Muslim advocacy groups hailed the decision as fair and just. Nadeem Elias, the head of one of the German advocacy groups, said he was particularly pleased with the verdict because the judge barred Wiens from seeking early release in 15 years, which is customary in Germany.
Elias hopes that the verdict will send a message to far-right political groups within the country, who often have Islamophobic ideologies. He also stated that they hope the strict sentence will deter anymore racially or religiously motivated attacks.
An independent Egyptian newspaper, El Shorouk, reported that although the Egyptian government seemed satisfied with the ruling, although the family of al-Sherbini was upset by the leniency regarded to other people in the case, including the German police officers who were exonerated after mistakenly shooting al-Sherbini's husband.
The incident didn't start with the stabbing, however. In a previous case, al-Sherbini accused the man of hurling racist insults at her partly because she wore a head scarf. The incident happened after she asked him to give up his swing at a Dresden park so her young child could sit.
Al-Sherbini claimed that Wiens proceeded to call her a "terrorist" and "Islamist." It was during this hearing for the incident that Wiens murdered al-Sherbini in the courtroom, in front of her husband, son and the judge. When police rushed the scene, they did not immediately shoot Wiens. Instead, they shot al-Sherbini's husband, who was trying to revive his wife.
Many in the Arab world took this case to heart and as an example of the racist and Islamophobic attitudes that are rampant in countries like Germany. Egyptians were especially outraged that such an incident could have happened so brazenly in a court of law.
They also were grimly aware of the fact that when pushed to act, the police instinctively shot the Arab man in the courtroom. The outcry in the Arab world and among the Muslim minority in Germany was miniscule compared to the relative silence on behalf of the media in both Europe and in the United States.
There was noticeably absent coverage of the incident, which had caused so much pain and deep-seeded fear among the Muslim minority in Germany. The silence was seen as a double-standard among the Muslim community.
The logic went that if the man had been Muslim, and the woman was not, the story would have exploded and been broadcast all over the world. Instead, it was swept under the rug and ignored, even though the brutality of the incident highlighted such deep tensions between the immigrant populations in Europe.