Rifqa Bary, 17, recently had to flee from Ohio to Florida, where she sought refuge with a Christian couple whose church she learned about from the Internet. Rifqa said she ran away from home because her father discovered she’d become a Christian — and then threatened to kill her. Rifqa’s parents say that whatever fears their daughter has of them have been caused by evangelical Christians hostile to Islam. The Barys said they are willing to let their daughter practice whatever religion she wishes.
If the information released to the media is correct, the law enforcement findings in both Ohio and Florida support the parents. This simply means Rifqa’s life could be seriously threatened, if what she has said about her father is correct.
Generally speaking, it is unlikely that Rifqa would have this degree of fear of her family if she was not actually threatened. If she were confident that her family would not hurt her and that she would be safe with them, she most likely would not have escaped. In other words, why would a child her age escape from her family if she did not feel threatened?
In more specific terms, Rifqa’s fears are fully justifiable for the following reasons:
First, the father neither clearly rejected nor denounced the Redda law (Islamic Shariah law that allows the killing of apostates). His statement that the parents are willing to let their daughter practice whatever religion she wishes does not negate his right to kill her, according to Redda law. He can simply give Rifqa the right to practice her new religion, while at the same time giving himself or others in his community the right to kill her for apostasy. Unless Rifqa’s father publicly denounces Redda law, his statements should not be taken seriously.
Second, all of the main schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (Shafeii, Maleki, Hanbali, and Hanafi), in addition to the main Shia teaching, approve and promote the killing of apostates. This violent form of teaching is unchallenged in authoritative mainstream Islamic books. Until the Muslim world and its religious authorities develop new jurisprudence that prohibits killing apostates, it will be extremely unsafe to force Rifqa to live in a Muslim society where any dedicated Muslim can apply the Redda law on her at any time.
Third, the deafening silence of Muslim society and organizations and their failure to take any clear stand against the Redda law support the view that many in this society agree with such a law. This casts doubt on whether Rifqa, even after converting from Islam, could be safe while living within this community.
Fourth, in the last few decades many innocent Muslims were brutally killed or attacked in accordance with the Redda law after being declared as apostates.1
Shall the free world return Rifqa to her society where she can suffer the same fate? If the Muslim majority is truly against the Redda law, why do not we hear their public condemnation for it? Where are the voices in the Muslim world or of the Muslim organizations in the West, such as CAIR and ISNA, that unambiguously denounce this barbaric law? In fact, the voices that are heard are those of the leading Muslim scholars in the West, such as Harvard Muslim chaplain Taha Abdul-Basser, who in 2009 noted in one of his blogs the“wisdom“of the death penalty for apostasy in Islam.2
Fifth, simply following news from all over the world makes it clear that the deaths of daughters at the hands of their fathers for religious causes — such as refusing to wear the hijab (Islamic head cover) or having an affair — has been frequently practiced in Muslim communities.3
The abovementioned points support the view that Rifqa’s fears of returning to her family and to the Muslim community are based on concrete facts and were not “put in her head by evangelical Christians hostile to Islam,” as her father claims.
In this context it is vital to question whether President Barack Obama will stand beside Rifqa and support her right to convert to Christianity as he recently supported4 the rights of Muslim women to wear the hijab? In fact, Nashala Hearn, a Muslim girl from Muskogee, Okla. who insisted on wearing the hijab, was invited to the Iftar dinner on Sept. 1 at the White House during Ramadan.5 The president supported her right to wear the hijab in U.S.
Is Obama going to give Rifqa the same level of support that he gave to this girl, and is he willing publicly to show solidarity with Rifqa by clearly supporting her right to convert from Islam to another faith; or does Rifqa have to wear the hijab to get this level of support from the president?
Furthermore, the U.S. government showed much care for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and always wanted to make sure that they are released to countries that will not torture them. U.S. officials have said for years that they could not return Guantanamo Bay detainees to their original countries (such as returning the Uighur detainees to China) for fear of persecution or execution.6
The innocent Rifqa deserves the same level of safety concern as these detainees. If this does not happen, and Rifqa is forced to go back to a community that may kill her, then the only message that can be logically concluded is that it is better to be a terrorist and kill innocent Americans to make the U.S. government care for your life.
Returning Rifqa to a system that ideologically justifies her killing is like returning a Jew to the Nazis during World War II. The spirit of U.S. law is to protect human life. Returning Rifqa to a community that accepts Redda law contradicts this spirit, as it puts her life at risk and opens the gate for barbarism to take advantage of our laws. The message that must be conveyed to the Muslim communities regarding this subject is that freedom of religion does not include the freedom to kill apostates.
(1) Examples for attacking apostates include: Egyptian thinker Farag Fouda was declared an apostate by Al-Azhar scholar Mohammed al-Ghazali and shot to death in his office on June 8m 1992 by two Islamic fundamentalists. Sudanese reformer Mahmoud Taha was killed by the government authority on Jan. 18,1985. Egyptian Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz was attacked and seriously injured by a young Muslim radical on Oct. 16, /1994. Author Salman Rushdie was declared an apostate, and a fatw? requiring his execution was proclaimed on Radio Tehran by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini on Feb. 14, 1989. On the day of writing this Op-Ed on Sept. 14, Afghanistan's upper house of parliament condemned the release of an Afghan journalist Perwiz Kambakhsh, who was originally sentenced to death for the crime of 'apostasy'. This was changed under pressure from the free world to 20 years in jail.
(2) For more on this go here now.
(3) More Honor Killings In The West, Yet No Outrage? By Pamela Geller, July 27, 2009
(4) See President Barack Obama's speech to the Muslim world on June 4, 2009
(5) For more on this go here now.
(6) See: The Seattle Times: Nation and World Originally published Friday, June 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM Nation & World | 6 Guantánamo Bay detainees released to other countries
Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the author of "Inside Jihad." He was a former associate of Dr. al-Zawahiri (second in command of al-Qaida) and currently he is a reformer of Islam. To know more about Hamid please visit www.tawfikhamid.com. Hamid's writings in this blog represent only his thoughts and not the views of the institute where he works.
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