A brutal murder in Germany last week has caused shockwaves in far-off Egypt. Thousands of mourners took to the streets of Alexandria on Monday to protest at the funeral of a pregnant Egyptian woman who was stabbed to death inside a German court in a crime that has provoked fury in her home country.
Egyptian newspapers have given strong coverage to the death of Marwa al-Sherbini (32), describing the veiled woman as a "martyr in a headscarf" and suggesting the killer was motivated by a hatred of Islam.
Mourners chanted "Down with Germany" and scuffled with police after prayers in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria for al-Sherbini, who was murdered on July 1 in a courtroom in Dresden, eastern Germany, by a German man of Russian origin.
"We will revenge her death," al-Sherbini's brother, Tarek al-Sherbini," told the Associated Press. He said Muslims faced racism and discrimination in the West.
Al-Sherbini, mother to a three-year-old child and three months pregnant, was stabbed 18 times by the man she was testifying against during an appeal hearing, German prosecutors said.
'He Wasn't Blond, so They Shot Him'
Her killer also stabbed her husband, who German police then mistook for the attacker and shot in the leg, prosecutors added. The husband is in hospital and has awoken from a coma. "They thought that he had to be the attacker because he isn't blond and then they shot him," Tarek told Egyptian TV.
The killer, named only as Alex W., was appealing against a conviction for insulting Sherbini by calling her an "Islamist," "terrorist" and a "slut" when she asked him to make space for her son to go on the swings on a playground in Dresden, prosecutors said.
He had been fined €780 and last Wednesday's court session had been called to hear his appeal against the ruling.
State prosecutor Christian Avenarius described him as a man driven by hatred of Muslims. "It was clearly a racist attack by a fanatical lone wolf," he said. W. had moved to Germany from Russia in 2003 and had already expressed his contempt for all Muslims at the start of his court case, the prosecutor said.
Al-Sherbini's body was flown to Cairo on Sunday, and met by her family and the German ambassador. Her funeral was attended by members of parliament, a minister, a representative of Egypt's Coptic Christians and others.
Al-Sherbini moved to Germany in 2005 with her husband Elwi Okaz, a genetic research scientist. They lived in Berlin at first and moved to Dresden in 2008 where Elwi had a research position at the Max-Planck-Institute.
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc, Egypt's most powerful opposition group, have called for MPs to discuss the killing, the group's Web site said.
German Consulate Under Police Protection
More protests are planned in front of the German consulate in Alexandria on Thursday. Egyptian newspapers reported that police had been put on alert and would deploy to protect the consulate. The city council plans to name a street after al-Sherbini, Daily News Egypt reported on Tuesday.
Hundreds of Arabs and Muslims demonstrated in Berlin on Saturday. The Egyptian Pharmaceutical Association has called for a boycott of German-made drugs -- al-Sherbiny was a pharmacologist and a member of Egypt's national handball team from 1992 to 1999.
The General Secretaries of Germany's Muslim and Jewish Councils, Aiman Mayzek and Stephan Kramer, visited al-Sherbini's husband in hospital on Monday. "You don't have to be Muslim to oppose anti-Muslim behavior, and you don't have to be Jewish to oppose anti-Semitism," said Kramer. "We must stand together against such inhumanity."
German government spokesman Thomas Steg said Chancellor Angela Merkel had reacted "very emotionally" to the incident. "If there's a xenophobic, racist background to this case, the government of course condemns it in the strongest terms," he said.
Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, Egypt's most senior cleric, called the attacker a murderer and said al-Sherbiny was a martyr. But he appealed for calm and said he hoped the murder wouldn't harm the dialogue between the West and Islam. "It was an isolated case," he said.