Reasons to Vote NO to Egypt’s Constitutional Amendments


1) I refuse to be forced to vote on a a package of amendments. I demand the right to vote yes to one amendment and no to another.

2) As almost everyone has agreed, we don’t need to amend the old constitution, we need a completely new one as there are many problematic articles aside from the ones that were amended. The amended constitution still doesn’t take away all the immense presidential authorities that Mubarak had given himself over the years.

3) The constitution represents the identity of the country and it must represent the post-revolutionary identity! When the regime was toppled the constitution was suspended, and bringing that same constitution back with some articles amended doesn’t make sense at all.

4) There should be a national committee, representing the different sectors of the population, that together draws up a new constitution in a transparent and democratic way. I have a lot of respect for Tarek el-Bishry and others on the committee, but because they are “technicians” i.e. dealing with the technical legal issues, they treated this like a technical process and not a political one, although it is necessarily political.


The two most important points:

5) According to the constitution, even after the amendments, there is no constitutional basis on which the army can assume power. This means that the army’s current role is unconstitutional. Let’s assume we all vote YES to the amendments and the constitution is accepted. What are the logical next steps? The next step is for the army to call for new presidential or parliamentary elections. Since the army is unconstitutional it has no legal right to call for elections. This places anyone we elect in a position of being declared unconstitutional in the future! Meaning that after we elect a new president, anybody could accuse that president of being unconstitutional and thus invalid.


6) In response to the argument that voting YES can give us a temporary constitution until we create a new permament one, Article 189 gives only one person the right to call for a new constitution: the president. In case he does, an Assembly of 100 members is created to oversee the creation of the new constitution. This Assembly is elected by the Parliament and Shura Council, but the article does not specify whether these 100 Assembly members are from within the two Councils or not. Here is the Arabic text:


لكل من رئيس الجمهورية و مجلس الشعب طلب تعديل مادة أو أكثر من مواد الدستور و يجب أن يذكر في طلب التعديل المواد المطلوب تعديلها و الأسباب الداعية إلى هذه التعديل فإذا كان الطلب صادرا من مجلس الشعب وجب أن يكون موقعا من ثلث أعضاء المجلس على الأقل و في جميع الأحوال يناقش المجلس مبدأ التعديل و يصدر قراره في شأنه بأغلبية أعضائه فإذا رفض الطلب لا يجوز إعادة طلب تعديل المواد ذاتها قبل مضي سنة على هذا الرفض و إذا وافق مجلس الشعب على مبدأ التعديل يناقش بعد شهرين من تاريخ الموافقة المواد المطلوب تعديلها فإذا وافق على التعديل ثلث أعضاء المجلس عرض على الشعب لاستفتائه في شأنه فإذا ووفق على التعديل اعتبر نافذا من تاريخ إعلان نتيجة الاستفتاء

و لكل من رئيس الجمهورية و بعد موافقة مجلس الوزراء و انصف أعضاء مجلسي الشعب و الشورى طلب إصدار دستور جديد و تتولى جمعية تأسيسية من مائة عضو ينتخبهم أغلبية أعضاء المجلسين غير المعينين في اجتماع مشترك إعداد مشروع الدستور في موعد غايته ستة أشهر من تاريخ تشكيلها و يعرض رئيس الجمهورية المشروع خلال خمس عشرة يوما من إعداده على الشعب لاستفتائه في شانه و يعمل بالدستور من تاريخ إعلان موافقة الشعب عليه في الاستفتاء.


Let’s assume we all vote YES and elect a new president and he refuses to call for a new constitution. What are we supposed to do? Revolt again? Or wait until his term is up and do our best to vote him out? Let’s say that he agrees to request a new constitution but the Assembly is formed entirely from with the members of the two Councils. Can we really ensure that their members will truly be representative of our desires? Can we expect to go from a completely forged Parliament to a comletely legitimate one on our first try?


These are the reasons why I insist that this constitution is completely dismissed and we form an Assembly to create a new one that is truly representative of the new Egypt, or at least the Egypt we would like to become. This is why I insha’Allah I will vote NO.



The above quote is taken from here.



March 9, 2011 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment

Why we’re on Strike at IslamOnline

And here is another article written by my friend and co-worker Bibi-Aisha for the Guardian. You can read the original here.

On Monday, there were many on Facebook and Twitter who posted a reminder: “Beware the Ides of March”. I laughed at their superstition. But just as Caesar failed to see the betrayal by Brutus, so did we atIslamOnline (IOL) fail to see the treachery that would befall us on that portentous day.

We weren’t oblivious, nor ostrich-like; we were just trusting. When the new management at al-Balagh Cultural Society, the holding company in Qatar, imposed their dictates on IOL’s editorial tone, and issued guidelines for rather conservative content, the pluralistic body of staff balked at the editorial interference.

Pluralism was what had attracted me to IslamOnline. Impressed the first time I visited its website, I set myself a goal to write for IOL. It was my involvement with IslamOnline that transported me from science graduate to journalist.

Being sent to Lebanon on assignment after the July 2006 war catalysed my future. It created in me a desire to be a news journalist. In 2007, I represented IslamOnline at the Highway Africa conference, where IOL won in the category of Most Innovative Use of New Media. Networking at the conference led me to write for SciDev.net, and land my dream job at SAfm radio in South Africa. In 2009 I returned to Egypt, after being asked to start an internet radio station for IOL’s English site.

As a female, I feel honoured to work at IOL, where women sit alongside men in equality, and where travel opportunities for conferences are not the sole preserve of men, as in other Muslim organisations. As a managing editor, I’m allowed autonomy in setting my editorial agenda.

Heavy-handedness by the board led to the resignation of the site’s general manager and a Qatari, Dr Atef Abdel Mughny, was sent to preside over the Egypt office. Two hundred and fifty employees protested against the behaviour of the board, by signing a petition sent to both the board and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, under whose guidance IslamOnline was founded. A chill silence was the response.

A game of Chinese whispers ensued, with talks of restructuring and layoffs. A committee was sent from Qatar to deal with the concerns of employees. However, their presence heightened the speculation, especially after some lower-level staff were laid off. Insidiously, the password to the server was appropriated by Mughny, and the Arabic youth site was transferred to a smaller server. The purge spread, obliterating “luxuries” such as milk and toilet paper. A few employees resigned, afraid we’d all be consumed by the hunger for editorial control exhibited by the board.

Were the rest of us blind to the writing on the wall? No, just trusting. We believed in the soothing words cooed to us by upper management, who pleaded for calm. Since I abhor paranoia and conspiracy theories, I too dismissed the wild notion the website would be shut down; but anticipated downsizing. I thought IOL Radio would be the first to fall, since it was still in a fledgling state. My boss assured me this wouldn’t happen.

So, when we fell down the rabbit hole on Monday, we became cognisant we’d been duped by our own trust. The dominoes came falling down as we learned that Qatar had blocked Egypt’s access to the server. Then it was revealed that a contract – of which nobody seemed aware – between al-Balagh and Media International (which produces the website for al-Balagh) ends on 31 March and will not be renewed, and all employees will be released. The duplicity by Qatar persisted, with promises made to compensate those who resigned. They reneged on the deal a day later.

We vacillated between hope and fear, but never despair. A spirit of resistance reigned. Bound by unity, our hearts were also with those resisting the occupation of al-Aqsa. There were expressions of outrage and disbelief at our inability to cover the al-Aqsa clashes.

While others lamented the impending unemployment of more than 300 people, I also mourned for the loss of opportunity for freelancers worldwide. I had started as a freelance writer, and until this week I was living my dream of building up an internet radio station on a Muslim platform.

But it could all come to an inglorious end. Calling for more religious content, but behaving in this manner towards employees, is an insult to the ideals on which IslamOnline was built.

The clash between homogenous and pluralistic Islam is one of great importance. At IOL we make local news global, truly connecting Muslims and non-Muslims around the world. We offer content far more diverse and inclusive than that of other Muslim websites.

One defining chant rang out on Monday: “Where is Sheikh Qaradawi?” He finally answered the call on Wednesday, at the 11th hour. An emergency meeting was held where he revoked the decisions of al-Balagh’s general manager, Ibrahim al-Ansari, and his deputy, Ali el-Amady. Both were duly suspended and a Qatari woman, Mariam al-Thany, has been appointed general manager. But these are only interim measures; a meeting of al-Balagh will be held in two weeks where they will be put to a vote.

Meanwhile, the strike continues until we are given access to the website’s server and normality is regained.

We float in limbo. We can only wait and see what the final answer will be, and play our part in perpetuating the truths as we believe them to be.

Pluralistic Islam must win.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment

IslamOnline was More than a Job

This article was originally published at BikyaMasr.com. You can read the original here.

’ve only been working here for 4 months, but I’ve grown so attached to this place. I’m trying to fathom what it means to work somewhere for 5, 7, and some even 10 years only to find out that over the course of 24 hours that in a couple of weeks it will be gone. This is the state of so many of those working at IslamOnline, the most well-known Islamic website in English.

This week started off just like any other; on Sunday we came to work, we had meetings, we decided on the events we would be covering that week – Al-Aqsa, of course, was at the top of the list. Little did we know that by Monday we would all be out of jobs, and the project we were all so passionate about would be hijacked by people whose agendas we do not know.

We had been hearing rumors for over a month about new management that had recently joined the Al-Balagh organization in Qatar, the entity through which IslamOnline receives its funding, and were planning on making some “changes.”

Over the course of the past several weeks rumors abounded. We heard that for financial reasons the company would be restructured and that would result in mass layoffs. We heard that the new management was unhappy that the website was delving into issues like health, homosexuality, art and youth, and wanted the content to revolve totally around Islam. The woman that cleans the bathroom on my floor went to ask for a loan and was told she might not even get paid that month. They started cutting back on “luxury expenses” like milk and toilet paper. We heard they were Wahabis and were developing a new editorial policy that would go against IslamOnline’s current editorial policies. The current editorial policy can be summarized in the following statement:

Islam is a way of life and seeps into every aspect of a Muslim’s life, and thus, the site’s content should reflect that

We, the editors of IslamOnline.net and all its subsidiary websites, hold strong to the Qur’anic verse that says “Thus we have created you a community of the middle way” (Al-Baqarah 2:143). We are passionate about Islam, and we are passionate about the Islamic principle of moderation in all things. We are not here just because this is our job, we are here because we believe in this message, and we love this message, and we want to contribute to its being heard.

I can safely say that the overwhelming majority of IoL workers, from managers to editors to journalists to everyone else, has lived every minute in this company based on this statement. IoL is not a normal company. This place has so much heart, it really did feel like one big family.

After we began protesting on Monday, the first demand on the list was that none of us will leave until every single person gets there financial rights, and those whose salaries are less than 1000 EGP must get the equivalent of an entire year’s salary. There are workers that come and clean the building at night after we leave, people we’ve never seen, but we’ve been told they have no formal documents in the company. We are trying to ensure that these people also get compensation for being let go.

There were people that had been working here since the website started over 10 years ago. There are couples that met, got married, and had children while both worked here; and their children would spend the day in the daycare room. I can only imagine what those couples are going through now, after finding out that they are both about to lose their jobs.

We sent letter after letter to Qatar, asking them for more information, telling them what we’ve been hearing and asking them to show us the respect we deserve by informing us what’s going on. We sent a letter to Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi that contained over 250 signatures from IoL workers, asking for the facts.

To make a long story short, a series of events followed that led us to Monday morning. It started off as a normal day, it’s time to pray the dhuhr prayer so we go to pray, and when we come back, we see that some workers have gathered in the entrance of the building to strike in protest against something we are not yet aware of. Word spread and we found out that Qatar had sent a committee currently on the top floor conducting some kind of business, the nature of this business differed depending on who you asked. The more information we gained about the committee, the more we realized how important it was for us to continue the strike. The committee made mishap after mishap, insulting major figures in the company, attempting to fire one of the strike instigators, and generally coming off as liars with no integrity. Towards the end of the workday, we finally learned what Qatar had known for months but refused to tell us: The contract between Al-Balagh organization and the other organization that own the building we were working in ends March 31st, and would not be renewed. Instead, all IoL operations would be transferred to Qatar, and all current employees would be let go.

During the sit-in, one girl stood up and told everyone that a gross violation is happening now in Al-Aqsa, and while IslamOnline would usually be a top source for Muslims to get coverage of this event, instead we’re busy with this committee from Qatar and we’re not even allowed access to the site. We should not forget that.

We are currently protesting for several reasons:

1. We want the financial rights of every single person in the company

2. We want the world to know that these editors and journalists and workers you see striking are the true voice of moderation. Without them, who knows what IslamOnline will be like, we are all praying that the voice of moderation is preserved. But if it is not, we want everyone to know that these are not the same people that have been running IoL for the past 10 years.

3. We are protesting against 10 years of effort and talent and experience that might quite possibly all go to waste in the near future.

4. We are protesting for the fact that they blocked our access to the server and have rendered us unable to cover what’s going on in Al-Aqsa.

We need the prayers and support of everyone that we can stand up again on our feet, without the help of Al-Balagh, and continue to voice the Islam of moderation we are so passionate about.

**Deena Khalil is a Bikya Masr blogumnist and work(ed) at Islam Online.

March 19, 2010 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

Al-Aqsa Under Attack

What happened in al-Aqsa today is scandalous and it just shows how low the Israelis are willing to sink. What do you expect when an entire nation is founded on the premise that they are chosen by God while everyone else is inferior? We the editors at IslamOnline.Net are dying to cover the situation there, but we are unable to as the management in Qatar has blocked our access to the server (more on that in the near future). In light of that, we have prepared a short collection of links to all previous material we have published related to al-Aqsa. Please circulate it. You can also see it at IoL Interact (the only site we still have access to).

al-Aqsa Coverage

March 16, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment

I love the desert.

By the awesome TGaaly http://tgaaly.blogspot.com/

By the awesome TGaaly http://tgaaly.blogspot.com/

This picture was taking while I was sandboarding at an area called Qataneyya dunes, about an hour and a half outside of Cairo. It’s incredibly breathtaking. And sandboarding is so much fun, I recommend to anyone at least once.

January 22, 2010 Posted by | Personal | 5 Comments

The Feminist Anti-Niqabi: Freeing Women from their Free Choice

This piece was originally published at BikyaMasr.com.

In the midst of all the hullabaloo about the niqab we are witnessing the formation of an unlikely alliance. French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Egyptian Sheikh al-Azhar Muhammad Tantawi both stirred controversy after expressing anti-niqab sentiments, and many of the reactions have been quite predictable. But certain opinions – the opinions of two groups in particular – strike me as somewhat self-contradictory: the Muslims who are for the niqab-ban because they see the niqab as an imposition on Islam, and the liberals who are for the ban because they see the niqab as oppressive to women.

Responding to the former group requires delving into issues of Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) which may be appropriate for another post. But in this post I will address the latter group: the self-proclaimed feminist freedom-of-choice-gender-equality-empowerment-of-women-espousing liberals.

This opinion is one that I just don’t understand. Personally, I have more respect for a secularist ideologue that hates all religious symbols than I do for a liberal who cries freedom of choice and calls for banning the niqab in the same breath. At least the secularists are consistent. But this particular group has taken on the cause of liberating women from the shackles of backwardness – these shackles being according to their own personal definition, and the women themselves get no say in the matter.

Read the rest of my piece here.

November 5, 2009 Posted by | Personal | Leave a comment

Why I wear the Hijab.

This piece was originally published at BikyaMasr.com.

Although I derive great pleasure from bemoaning the world’s obsession with – (cue sinister music) – THE VEIL, I have agreed to contribute my own two cents to this never-ending discussion. Between the “Aren’t you hot under that thing”, the “Babe if you took that veil off you would be soooo hot, like I would totally date you”, the “Do you wear the veil like all the time? Like even in the shower?”, and the “You’re oppressed, let me save you” I have no grandiose ambitions of ending this obsession. The world will continue to marvel over women’s bodies and the various ways in which we dare to exercise our own personal autonomy over them. I do not intend to discount the fact that many women are deprived of the right to free choice when it comes to what they wear. This applies to women who are forced to cover, those who are forced to uncover, and the many other atrocities we continue to hear about around the world. I am in no way making light of these atrocities. The below piece does not intend to end this debate (although I can’t say it wouldn’t be nice if that happened), but rather it is solely to provide a personal answer to a personal question I have received many times:

Why do you choose to wear the hijab?

Read the rest of my piece here.

October 22, 2009 Posted by | Islam, Personal | 2 Comments

To-do List

To-do list:

  • Finish the books on my ever-expanding reading list. At the top of the list are  “Faith in Divine Unity and Trust in Divine Providence” and “Disciplining the Soul” from al-Ghazali’s Ihyaa’ Uloom al-Deen (Revival of the Islamic Sciences). I also found a copy of “Deliverance from Error” at al-kotob khan, and it includes in the appendices a bunch of other texts, e.g. parts of al-maqsad al-asna fe sharh asma’ Allah al-husna,  parts of the Faysal which I understand is his essay on Takfir.  I’m going through a Ghazali phase these days, I don’t know why.
  • Attend the 6-day workshop at Bridges Foundation. It starts tonight inshallah. I hope it’s useful.
  • Start work on my own personal “project” to translate into English Sheikh Ali Gomaa’s al-Namozaj al-Maarefy al-Islami (The Islamic Intellectual Paradigm) to make sure I understand it correctly. The only way I can make sure I’ve understood something in Araby correctly is to see if I can translate it into English. If I can’t, then I know I’m not getting it.
  • Figure out what I want to do with my life. I know it’ll eventually be something in academia insha’Allah, because that’s the only area where I feel like I’m producing something with some semblance of value, but the question is which field. Over the course of the past few years I’ve jumped from Computer Science to Economics to Economic Development to Sociology to Political Science (they say that’s typical Gemini behaviour, but since I don’t buy into that stuff I pretend not to listen while simultaneously being annoyed at myself for not dispelling that myth). Now I think I’m finally settled on Middle East Studies and Islamic Studies. But I don’t want to lose my experience in economic development. So, if inshallah I decide to go back to academic research, I will probably be looking at something like an Islamic approach to development based on things like the Maqasid and the Sunnah, combined with a critique of how development is being done today in Middle Eastern countries (that should be the easiest part), and the field work would be a study of Islamic charity and development organizations in Egypt. Obviously this thought it far from complete, but at least there’s a seed of an idea that I can work on growing later.
  • Plan a short trip to Malaysia and pray to God that it doesn’t get cancelled at the last minute like most of my travel plans do.
  • Oh yeah, work. Sigh, why can’t I just bum around all day and still get paid?

October 1, 2009 Posted by | Personal | 2 Comments

Labels and the Insensitive Sheikh

I’ve always hated labels. But certain labels tend to annoy me more than others. The terms  “salafist” and “fundamentalist” are two such labels that make me roll my eyes at their blatant inaccuracy.  The ideas that are propagated by these so-called salafists are vastly different from what was practiced by the actual salaf (which translates to predecessors or early generations). The term “fundamentalist” has come to imply ideologies that diverge dramatically from the actual fundamentals of Islam. And yet, these labels are used with seemingly no qualms by non-Muslims and Muslims alike. Case in point: when I first announced that I was going to be taking a class at the Dar el-Iftaa of al-Azhar University, I was warned that they were all salafis. I was asked: Wouldn’t my knowledge be better served by readings books that I could choose for myself, rather than having a salafi sheikh project his views onto me?

Ironically, the issue of labels was raised during that class when the Sheikh made a seemingly derogatory comment about salafis. In response to a question by one of the students, the Sheikh said “I don’t want to hear any of this salafi speak”. He explained that he hates these labels just as much as we do, and he understands how inaccurate they are and how labels such as “salafi” and “fundamentalist” paint a negative picture about the earlier generations of Muslims and about the fundamentals of Islam. The actual “salaf” – the early generations of Muslims – did not equate between non-observance of the hijab and kufr (a term generally used in Islam to refer to someone who does not recognize the onness of God and the prophethood of Muhammad, and is thus outside the folds of Islam). Similarly, the fundamentals of Islamic jurisprudence in no way equates non-observance of prayer with kufr. In fact, according to traditional Islamic scholarship, a person is a Muslims as long as (s)he believes in the shahada (there is not God but God and Muhammad is His Prophet), regardless of whether or not they practice the Sharia. However, according to the Sheikh, current so-called salafi or fundamentalist groups equate the Sharia (practice of Islamic rules) with Aqida (adoption of the Islamic faith). Unfortunately, the Sheikh said, these labels have now become a reality, especially in the field of research [which is the field we are studying].

What should be and what actually is are two completely different things, and as researchers we must operate from a context that represents reality.

Personally, I’m not quite sure if I agree. Isn’t it this very attitude that has resulted in the normalization of these terms? Isn’t it this very non-resistance to their usage what gave credence to their ideas? On the other hand, I see what he means about operating from a realistic context.

He continued that we must acknowledge these labels and understand what they represent so as to avoid falling into the traps of the ideas they have come to represent. At this point, the Sheikh started addressing an older woman who does da’wa in a non-Muslim country. Her and her daughter are both students in the class. He remarked that she has the heavy burden of doing da’wa in a non-Muslim country, and that she has to be careful that often in non-Muslim countries because Muslims are under so much pressure they tend to fall into the trap of believing that the ideas propagated by so-called salafi groups actually represent the true Islam.

“By the way,” he said, “I actually found that your name pops up a lot on salafi websites, both yours and your husband’s, so I’m worried about you!”. The woman just smiled wisely and said “don’t worry about me Sheikh”, seemingly aware of how condescending that statement sounds but willing to let it slip for the sake of the class. Her daughter, however, tensed up immediately. The Sheikh didn’t say what he said in a condescending tone, in fact, it sounded as if he was genuinely just trying to give her advice. But if it were my mother he said that to, I would have been annoyed to tbe point of offense. This man doesn’t know them, he doesn’t know how they think or what their life is like. Just because he did an internet search he feels he has the right to advise this woman on how to do her job? Sure, he is a scholar of Islam,  and he is our teacher, but his job is to pass on the knowledge he has, not pass on his personal opinions, and definitely not to question those of the students!

The daughter had had it. She interrupted the Sheikh’s speech telling him that the use of these labels is incorrect and that they actually don’t use these labels in their country (the non-Muslim country where I mentioned the mother does da’wa), so he does not have the right to use these labels to describe her family. These labels, she said, are divisive in a time where unifying the ummah should be our top priority, especially in a non-Muslim country where having a strong Muslim community is vital to the Muslims living there. She was offended, and I was offended on her behalf and proud of her for speaking up. The Sheikh kept trying to interrupt her to defend his point, but she wouldn’t have it and insisted on finishing her point first. The room was peppered with nervous laughter as the other students started saying she had misunderstood and that the Sheikh didn’t say that at all.

Perhaps they were right, but if so she’s not the only one who misunderstood, I also felt that he had crossed a line by implying that this woman might “fall into the traps of the salafis”. I must point out that in no way do I belittle these so-called traps, for they are very real and I have personally seen people slowly but surely drift away from the mainstream middle path and gravitate more and more towards the extreme. But nevertheless, it is not his place to say what he did, definitely not in front of the entire class and especially keeping in mind that this woman is his elder, even if she is his student.

I could tell the daughter was embarassed at the prospect that she may have misunderstood the Sheikh and been too harsh in her tone. But hey, at least she has the knowledge that she spoke up to defend her point of view despite the looks of disbelief on the faces of almost every student in the class, and the Sheikh himself.

July 27, 2009 Posted by | Islam, Personal | 2 Comments

GREAT Analysis of Marwa’s Murder (Allah yerhamha)

Seeing as how media-coverage of racist murder of Marwa el-Sherbini was extensive in Egypt, the comparative silence from Western media was deafening. I was waiting for Muslimah Media Watch to cover this because I knew they would say it like nobody else. As usual, they did not dissapoint. I copied the entire post below, but the comments are also very interesting so I recommend that you read the post & comments at the original website.

Originally posted by Sobia at Muslimah Media Watch:

By now many Muslims have heard of the tragic murder of Marwa el-Sherbini, mother, daughter, wife, pharmacist, who lived in Germany while her husband completed his Ph.D. May God give her peace and grant her paradise.

According to the BBC:

Marwa Sherbini, 31, was stabbed 18 times by Axel W, who is now under arrest in Dresden for suspected murder. Husband Elwi Okaz is also in a critical condition in hospital, after being injured as he tried to save his wife. Ms Sherbini had sued her killer after he called her a “terrorist” because of her headscarf.

Sherbini, who was pregnant at the time, had sued and won the case. At this point in time they had been in the courthouse to hear Axel/Alex’s appeal.

According to CNN:

The man, identified in German media as Alex A., 28, was convicted of calling Sherbini, who wore a headscarf, “terrorist,” “bitch” and “Islamist” when she asked him him to leave a swing for her 3-year-old son Mustafa during an August 2008 visit to a children’s park.

Subsequently, Sherbini sued W. for his Islamophobic rant.

Christian Avenarius, the prosecutor in Dresden where the incident took place, described the killer as driven by a deep hatred of Muslims. “It was very clearly a xenophobic attack of a fanatical lone wolf.”

He added that the attacker was a Russian of German descent who had immigrated to Germany in 2003 and had expressed his contempt for Muslims at the start of the trial.

The Islamophobic and racist nature of the attack is clear. If one follows the events as reported by the media, it appears clear that this man was driven by a hate of Muslims. He initially referred to her in Islamophobic ways and was thus sued and lost. He then attacked her again, though the nature of the attack is unclear, which resulted in prosecutors seeking a jail term for W. He then murdered Sherbini in the courtroom, yelling “[y]ou have no right to live.”

The Hijab Martyr

Sherbini is being hailed by many Egyptians, as well as others, as the “Hijab Martyr” as she lost her life because she was Muslim, a part of her identity made obvious by her hijab.

Newspapers in Egypt have expressed outrage at the case, asking how it was allowed to happen and dubbing Ms Sherbini “the martyr of the Hijab”.

BBC News

Anger about Sherbini’s death smoldered online, as Twitterers and bloggers pushed the cause.

“She is a victim of hatred and racism,” tweeted Ghada Essawy, among many other Arab twitters and bloggers. Essawy called Sherbini “the martyr of the veil.”


According to numerous interviews in Egyptian local papers with el-Sherbini family, the man who stabbed al-Sherbini used to accuse her of being a “terrorist,” and in one incident, he tried to take off her head scarf. Mourners at her funeral called her the “martyr of the head scarf.”

Huffington Post

Some have stated that claiming her to be a hijab martyr is inappropriate as W. did not state that he hated her because of her hijab or that he killed her because of it. But what they forget is that the hijab is what made it obvious that she was Muslim. It is the hijab which led to the initial harassment. Had she not worn the hijab, perhaps she would not have faced Islamophobic comments. Additionally, Sherbini died defending her right to wear the hijab without fear of harassment as a result of it. Therefore, the term “hijab martyr” seems appropriate in this case. The hijab, in this case, serves to function as the proxy for being Muslim.

It’s about Egyptians, not Sherbini

As Maggie Michael of the Huffington Post mentions this story has received little attention in German and Western media. However, the attention that has been given to the case has focused on the anger Egyptians in Egypt, as well as other Muslims and Arabs, have felt over the case.

BBC News entitled their piece “Egypt mourns ‘headscarf martyr‘”. Additionally, they describe the murderer’s initial actions toward Sherbini as “insulting her religion” – an inaccurate statement, as W. insulted Sherbini herself, not her religion. Making such a statement skews the reality of the case and paints the story as the “Muslim angry over insult to Islam” trope. Stating this lie trivializes Sherbini’s very real experience of personal hate and Islamophobia. It diminishes W.’s hateful actions toward a Muslim woman. It ignores the fact that it was human being who was hurt, not a religion.

CNN reported “Egyptians angry over German court slaying“. The article focuses on the anger that many Egyptians are feeling as a result of the incident providing such quotes as

Many shouted hostile slogans against Germany and called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to take a firm stand on the incident. Egypt’s grand mufti, Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, demanded the severest punishment to be issued against Alex A.

Berlin witnessed angry protests on Saturday, when hundreds of Arabs and Muslims demonstrated after a funeral prayer that called her killing an outrageous racist murder against Muslims.

The Guardian entitled their piece “Outrage over Muslim woman killed in court” and continued to explain

Many in her homeland were outraged by the attack and saw the low-key response in Germany as an example of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment.

“There is no God but God and the Germans are the enemies of God,” chanted mourners for 32-year-old Marwa el-Sherbini in Alexandria, where her body was buried.

“We will avenge her killing,” her brother Tarek el-Sherbini told the Associated Press by telephone from the mosque where prayers were being recited in front of his sister’s coffin. “In the west, they don’t recognise us. There is racism.”

The rage that many feel over her death is not just about the loss of an innocent life. But it also reflects an anger at the hate that many Muslims are facing around the world. Sherbini’s murder, and subsequent silence on the part of Germans, appears to demonstrate a disregard for the experiences and lives of Muslims. Therefore, although many could take those statements out of context and attribute them simply to “those angry Muslims”, one must consider that such anger is not just about Sherbini’s murder. It is about the complicity of many Western nations in Islamophobic beliefs and actions, and about the frustration of Muslims regarding this lack of respect for such traumatic experiences faced by Muslims living in Muslim minority countries.

From the Huffington Post:

A German Muslim group criticized government officials and the media for not paying enough attention to the crime.

“The incident in Dresden had anti-Islamic motives. So far, the reactions from politicians and media have been incomprehensibly meager,” Aiman Mazyek, the general secretary of the Central Council of Muslims, told Berlin’s Tagesspiegel daily.

Egyptian commentators said the incident was an example of how hate crimes against Muslims are overlooked in comparison to those committed by Muslims against Westerners. Many commentators pointed to the uproar that followed the 2004 murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-born Islamic fundamentalist angry over one of his films criticizing the treatment of Muslim women.

Also from the Huffington Post:

“What we demand is just some attention to be given to the killing of a young innocent mother on the hands of fanatic extremist,” he wrote in his column.

An Egyptian blogger Hicham Maged, wrote “let us play the ‘What If’ game.”

“Just imagine if the situation was reversed and the victim was a Westerner who was stabbed anywhere in the world or _ God forbid _ in any Middle Eastern country by Muslim extremists,” he said.

Yes, imagine. The news would have spread like wildfire and all Muslims would be being condemned.

From  the articles, one would assume that it is only Egyptians and/or other Arabs and/or Muslims who are the ones outraged by this Islamophobic murder. And one could assume right. No outrage has poured out from Germans. No outrage from any other Western nations either.

It is here I will ask the same question asked of Muslims every time a Muslim some place in the world commits a crime. Where are the moderate Germans I ask? Where are the moderate Westerners? Where is their outrage at the acts of hate by one of their own? Why is the burden of being outraged at the actions of “one of our own” only placed on Muslims? Why can we not expect fellow Germans as complicit in some manner as all Muslims are assumed to be complicit?

We are thought to be one monolithic entity, barbaric to the point of being complicit in all acts of violence. White Westerners on the other hand are viewed as diverse, understood to not condone violence, therefore not required to express their condemnation of violent acts committed in their name. Of course they would not condone such violence, we are expected to believe. But Muslims, and other minority groups, are not given that luxury. We must prove that we condemn violence. Such condemnation of violence cannot be assumed or expected of us. We are after all barbarians, we are expected to believe.

And this leads to my next and final point.

The Lone Wolf

In one above quote W. is described as a lone wolf. In this Racialicious post regrading the shooting at the Holocaust museum, a discussion ensued in the comments section regarding the problems with painting a white supremacist criminal as a lone, crazy killer acting on his/her own. The fact is that such white supremacist beliefs and attitudes do not exist in a vacuum. They do not occur in isolation. They require nurturing and a complicit society. W.’s use of the terms “terrorist” and “Islamist” were not creations of his own imagination. The association of Muslims with terrorism and Islamism was not his creation. His hate of Muslims and derogatory views of Muslims were not his own creation, but rather a creation of the world he lives in. His actions were not that of a lone wolf, but rather of one living in a society full of Islamophobia. This of course does not shift the blame from him, but rather places his behavior in context and demonstrates how, when one is the powerful group in society, if not the world, then that power means a greater ability to perpetuate hateful views and to cause more damage as those words and actions become just another method of oppression.

Additionally, if one views this portrayal as the one lone criminal in contrast to the ways in which people of color, including Muslims of color, are portrayed as guilty by association, one sees the ways in which people of color are viewed as violent barbarians whereas white, non-Muslims as civilized individuals who would never condone violence.


Sherbini’s tragic murder has reminded us once again of the violent nature of Islamophobia and the lack of regard for a Muslim life. From the ways in which the media reports this tragedy, one would assume that Sherbini’s murder has disturbed only those who share her religion. Not many others have expressed any outrage. Even a “German government spokesman, Thomas Steg, said that if the attack was racist, the government ‘naturally condemns this in the strongest terms’ ” (emphasis mine). Although many more should be outraged, there seems to be a denial among those who have allowed for such hateful views of Muslims to perpetuate of the severity of this case.

Let’s hope she gets justice, Insha’Allah.

July 13, 2009 Posted by | Personal | 1 Comment