The tragic events in Dresden last week have left several unanswered questions: How can a defendant stab a witness 18 times in a courtroom without anyone stopping him? How can the only person apparently able to intervene – her husband – end up seriously injured? And how is it that the police officer coming to the scene ends up shooting directly at the Egyptian husband and not the attacker?
But there’s possibly already answers to two important questions: Why does the death of a woman wearing a headscarf – who wasn’t the victim of a so-called “honour killing” – spark so little interest in Germany? And why did the country’s politicians merely shrug their shoulders for an entire week after the heinous deed?
Could it be that this death – which is now a murder investigation – did not fit the preconceived notions most Germans have of Muslims?
A young Muslim woman, an educated and employed pharmacist, refuses to accept outrageous insults such as “slut,” Islamist,” and “terrorist” from a xenophobic man and decides to defend herself in a court of law. After suing her tormentor he is convicted, but at a retrial he kills her.
Maybe most people simply chose to ignore this incident because it counters too many of our popular dogmas. For example, that education is the key to integration. In this case, a well-educated young woman, married to a man working at the esteemed Max Planck Institute, died. Who knows, perhaps that enraged the unemployed racist murderer even more?
Or what about the claim that Islam and Western society simply don’t fit? Marwa al-Sherbini tried to defend herself not only in an extremely rational and civil way, but chose to do it in an extremely German fashion: instead of screaming back at the man, she decided to sue him in court.
Another truth also hurts: the frequent German association that “Islam” means “Islamist” and “terrorist” only because someone has darker skin or wears a headscarf. Those are sentiments not held exclusively by extremists, even if the murderer apparently sympathised with the far-right NPD party.
Ever since Germany joined the war on terror after September 11, 2001 by profiling anyone appearing to be a devout Muslim with a beard or headscarf, it’s not only extremists linking Islam directly with terrorism.
Anti-Semitism against Jews is at last widely condemned in Germany, but now hatred of Islam is on the verge of becoming an acceptable form of racism. Fortunately the German Jewish Council has long made a point of trying to stem the rising tide.
But Chancellor Angela Merkel has remained silent and Geert Mackenroth, Saxony’s justice minister, apparently only wants to use the incident to push for closed courtrooms in the state – even though public access to trials is one of the most important pillars of a modern legal system.
Mackenroth, the former head of the German Association of Judges, once tried to justify police torture in Frankfurt. Perhaps proponents of the West’s liberal legal traditions have as much to fear from German justice ministers as they do from Islamic law dictated by sharia.