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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rifqa Bary -- Runaway For Religion?

A Muslim teenager from Ohio says her father threatened to kill her because she converted to Christianity.

Rifqa Bary, 17, ran away from her family in Columbus, Ohio, in July and took refuge in the central Florida home of the Rev. Blake Lorenz with the Global Revolution Church in Orlando. (John Couwels,, September 3 2009)

The teen heard of the pastor and his church through a prayer group on Facebook. The girl's parents reported her missing to Columbus police, who found her two weeks later in Florida through cell phone records.

In a sworn affidavit, Rifqa claims her father, Mohamed Bary, 47, was pressured by the mosque the family attends in Ohio to "deal with the situation." In the court filing, Rifqa Bary stated her father said, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me!" The teenager claims her father added, "I will kill you!"

But, Mohamed Bary told CNN a lot of false information has been given and "we wouldn't do her harm." In a court filing Monday, John Stemberger, Rifqa Bary's attorney and president of the Christian advocacy organization Florida Family Policy Council, accused the parents' Ohio mosque of having ties to terrorism and radical Islam. The Noor Islamic Cultural Center has denied the allegations.

Renee Stutzman, Orlando Sentinel staff writer reports, "Neither John Stemberger nor FBI Special Agent Harry Trombitas would say whether Noor, its members or leaders are under investigation for terrorist-related activities." (August 31 2009)

The Sentinel also reports that Stemberger, in a 35-page pleading he said he filed Monday, alleged that Hany Saqr, a physician and chairman of Noor, was listed in the 1992 phone directory that ties him to the Muslim Brotherhood, a group Stemberger described as "responsible for birthing virtually every terrorist organization in the world, including al-Qaida." (August 31 2009)

According to Andrew Bostom of the U.S. Copts Association,"The extreme Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Columbus, Ohio is where the internationally known Hamas cleric, Salah Sultan, was the resident scholar before being banned from the United States. Salah Sultan is known as a global terrorist who publicly advocates the killing of Americans and Jews. The largest cell of Al Qaeda operatives was operating from the largest mosque in the Columbus area. Columbus is one of the cities under current investigation concerning the U.S. operations of Al-Qaeda." (August 24 2009)

ABC Channel 6 in Columbus reports, "The mosque says hate groups are using a family matter to attack the Muslim community and Islamic organizations in an effort to further their own religious and political goals." (September 2 2009)

There have been radical Muslims in Columbus, including three who are now serving federal prison terms for conspiring with suspected terrorists to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, a Columbus-area shopping mall and unspecified targets in the U.S. and Europe. Those men -- Iyman Faris, Nuradin Abdi and Christopher Paul -- worshipped at another Columbus mosque near the Ohio State University campus, according to Fred Alverson, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Columbus.

Channel 6 also reports that Columbus police question the girl's claim of being in danger. Mohamed Bary "comes across to me as a loving, caring, worried father about the whereabouts and the health of his daughter," said Sgt. Jerry Cupp, chief of the Columbus police missing persons bureau. Rifqa's father and the Islamic Society of Central Florida say she's being "brainwashed by a cult", "kidnapped by a cult", that she's a "rebel", a "troubled teen".

The family is originally from Sri Lanka and emigrated in 2000 to seek medical help for Rifqa, who had lost sight in her right eye when she fell and struck a toy airplane on a couch at home. Rifqa, a high school junior in well-off suburban New Albany, had been questioning her faith for several months. The family says Rifqa was baptized a Christian without their knowledge this year in Columbus. They also told her she had an obligation to study her original faith first, before choosing another, but deny her allegations of trying to harm or kill the girl.

Reports state that such apostate or mercy killing victims are generally beautiful, Westernized, and dressed in a manner that perhaps Islam would term "provocative." The Muslim girls who live in the West actually lead two lives. Two such girls were Amina and Sarah Said, who were murdered by their father in Texas on New Years Day 2008 for having non-Muslim boyfriends. The girls were honor students and star athletes. Rifqa, a cheerleader, fits the profile of Amina and Sarah. She was forced to wear the Muslim headscarf called a hijab and reportedly was punched in the face by her father for being ashamed while wearing it.

A judge in Florida on September 3, 2009, ordered Rifqa to stay exactly where she is -- in Florida -- until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can find out whether her home is safe. Here, from Jihad Watch (August 12, 2009), in Rifqa's own words, is dramatic testimony on her behalf: Why does Rifqa believe she will be killed? "Islam is very different than you guys think. They have to kill me. My blood is now halal, which means that because I am now a Christian, I’m from a Muslim background, it’s an honor. If they love God more than me, they have to do this ... I’m not sure, but in 150 generations of my family no one has known Jesus. I am the first one. Imagine the honor in killing me. There is great honor in that. Because if they love Allah more than me, they have to do it. It’s in the Koran." "He (Rifqa's father) said he would kill me. Or he’d have me sent back to Sri Lanka where they’d put me in the asylum…" What will happen if Rifqa must return to Ohio? "They want me back home, I can’t go back to Ohio, you guys don’t understand. That community, they’re like – I will die within a week. My life is at stake. My dad threatened me. I was ready to die, these were my thoughts, that I’ll be a martyr for Christ, let it be so!" How had she remained safe in Ohio this long? "I mean, I had to hide my Bible for years, I would go outside to pray. When my dad was asleep was when I went outside to pray. I snuck out to Christian prayer meetings in fear of my life. And finally this day had come, when I was confronted by my dad. A couple of weeks later, after I told my dad that I would follow -- I wouldn’t follow Islam, but would learn more about it. Then he put me in class after class after class after class, thinking that, you know, that my mind was gonna be back in it, but of course not, I’m a follower of God, Jesus, the true living Jesus!" How common is this type of killing? "There’s actually hundreds of cases that are backed like me. Amina and Sarah, they were forced to go back home. They were killed by their dad! This is not just some threat! This is reality! This is truth! This is reality! How many more cases do you want? There’s case after case." Why freedom does Rifqa treasure more than any other? "I want to be free from my parents. I want to be free. I want to worship Jesus. I want to go to church on Sundays and read my Bible and see Jesus alive, whenever I want to. You talk about religious freedom? No! I don’t have that. I want to be here. I want to worship Jesus freely. I don’t want to die."

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