17-year old Rifqa Bary, who fled her Muslim family in Ohio this summer after they suspected she had converted to Christianity, will stay in Florida for the time being, an Orlando, Florida judge decided on Thursday.
Circuit Court Judge Daniel Dawson issued a gag order on all lawyers involved in the case after a lawyer for the girl’s mother started to quote from a sealed law enforcement document during Thursday’s hearing, to argue that the girl faced no danger if she was returned to her family.
The sealed document, an investigative report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), included a videotaped interview with the 17-year old girl, where apparently she did not mention any fear of returning home.
However, the girl’s court-appointed guardian told the court that Rifqa had felt intimidated by the law enforcement officers who interviewed her and objected because the interview had been conducted without the presence of her lawyer.
In an affidavit presented to the court on Monday, Rifqa said she left home on July 17 after her father threatened to kill her because she had become a Christian.
“In a fit of anger that I had never seen before in my life, he picked up my lap top, waived it over my head as if to strike me with it and said 'If you have this Jesus in your heart, you are dead to me! You are no longer my daughter.' I continued to remain silent and then he said to me even more angry than before, 'I will kill you! Tell me the truth!'"
The case has attracted national attention, because Rifqa’s flight from her family in pursuit of religious freedom shatters one of the myths that Muslim advocacy groups are so keen to purvey.
During a press conference held outside the courtroom shortly before the hearing began, a Muslim man from Ohio reportedly tied to the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), disputed claims by Rifqa’s supporters that Islam called for the killing of apostates.
The man, Muhammad Lutfi, repeatedly interrupted the press conference, accusing Rifqa’s supporters of telling lies about Islam.
But Robert Spencer, an author and recognized expert on Islamic affairs who runs the Jihad Watch website, countered by explaining that a well-accepted hadith quotes the Prophet Muhammad as saying, “If anyone changes his religion, kill him.”
The hadith is included in Bukhari, “the collection of traditions of Mohammad that Muslims consider most reliable,” Spencer said. And yet, the man from CAIR denied it, “lying openly about Islamic apostasy law.”
Author Noni Darwish, the daughter of an Egyptian military officer, also became a Christian and described the reality of the way Islam treats apostates in a teleconference with reporters and bloggers hosted by the Center for Security Policy.
“I really cannot imagine how frightened this girl is, because we adults who left Islam in America, we are scared. We’re living in constant fear. Because according to Islamic law, we must be killed. And that's not just radical Islam. That's all schools of Islamic law. Whether you're Sunni or Shia or all the branches of schools. A person who leaves Islam must be killed. Period. No doubt about it.”
The spread of radical mosques “paid for by Saudi Arabia,” has brought to America the same dangers former Muslim believers thought they had escaped by coming to this country, she added. “So this is coming to America. And radical Islam is following us here and we need protection.”
Rifqa’s lawyer, John Stemberger of Orlando, released a 35-page memorandum of law earlier this week that described the mosque the girl’s parents attended in Ohio as “a hotbed of Islamic extremists with ties to terrorists.”
The report detailed alleged ties to terrorist groups of the Noor Islamic Center in Dublin, Ohio, and concluded that the ideology of the mosque “represents a specific and identifiable threat” to the girl’s safety, should she be forcibly returned to her parents.
As the Muslim population in America has grown in recent decades, so has the frequency of so-called “honor killings,” notes scholar and author Dr. Phyllis Chesler.
“When a husband murders a wife or daughter in the United States and Canada, too often law enforcement chalks the matter up to domestic violence,” Chesler says.
But domestic violence cases bear little resemblance to Muslim honor killings, which tend to be premeditated and involve several family members of the victim, usually a young girl or woman.
Young Muslim women are murdered by family members for a variety of reasons, Chesler explains in a recent essay in the Middle East Quarterly – anything from having a non-Muslim boyfriend to leaving Islam.
“The frequent argument made by Muslim advocacy organizations that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam and that it is discriminatory to differentiate between honor killings and domestic violence is wrong,” Chesler says.
Read about Kenneth Timmerman’s thriller, Honor Killing.
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