Rifqa Bary controversy

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Fathima Rifqa Bary, born on August 10, 1992,[1] is a U.S. resident of Sri Lankan origin from the Sri Lankan Moor community who drew international attention in 2009 when she ran away from her Ohio home at age 16 saying that her Muslim parents were going to kill her for becoming a Christian.[2] Her story was broadcast on TV and discussed on partisan blogs.[3] It became a focal point in a culture clash between Evangelical Christians and Muslims.[4]

History[edit]

Rifqa Bary, is the daughter of Mohamed and Aysha Bary. Her parents initially came to the U.S. to seek medical care for Rifqa after she became blind in her right eye.[3] She grew up in the Columbus suburb of New Albany with her older brother Rilvan and her younger brother Rajaa.[5] She and Rilvan attended New Albany High School. At the school Rifqa was a Straight A Student, a cheerleader, and a member of the track and field team. During her spare time she wrote poetry and took guitar lessons.[6] Bary's parents have said that they are Muslims and pray five times a day.[3] Her attorney, John Stemberger, who is the leader of a Christian advocacy group,[7] claimed that the Bary family were members of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center (NICC), near Columbus.[5] In an official statement, NICC denied it was familiar with Rifqa Bary or her family and stated that their records showed she attended the cultural center's Sunday School only three times in 2007.[8]

Rifqa became a Christian in 2005 when she was 13. In July 2009, Bary was secretly baptized in Big Walnut Creek, at Hoover Dam Park by her mentor and friend Brian Michael Williams, an aspiring pastor and college student while her family was not at home. Rifqa eventually became a member of Columbus Korean United Methodist Church.[3]

In July 2009 she ran away from her parents' home to the home of Orlando, Florida Christian pastor Blake Lorenz and his wife, Beverly with whom Rifqa had communicated on Facebook. Rifqa had told Beverly Lorenz that her parents would kill her for converting to Christianity.[4] Williams drove her to a bus station where a ticket was purchased under an assumed name for her bus ride to Orlando, Florida.[3] Bary lived with the Lorenzes for 10 to 21 days (reports vary)[4] before they contacted child welfare authorities, though Florida law required that they contact authorities within 24 hours of receiving Rifqa into their home.[9]

Her case drew attention when she appeared on television and declared that her father said, "He would kill me or send me back to Sri Lanka," describing herself as the intended victim of an honor killing.[4]

Her parents said they never threatened to harm her.[10] Her father, a jewellery salesman who travels to weekend trade shows in the south and midwest,[3] told a reporter that, "Honestly, we didn't know why she left." Regarding the death threat described by his daughter, he said, "She doesn't know what she's talking about," and, "I want her to come back home. I love my daughter whether she's Christian, or anything else. I want my daughter back." [11]

Law enforcement investigations[edit]

Rifqa Bary was taken into custody by Florida child welfare authorities while an investigation was conducted. The court appointed attorneys for her parents: private practitioner Craig McCarthy for the mother, and a lawyer from the state Florida Regional Council for the father.[12] The Florida Department of Law Enforcement report states that they found no credible evidence of physical or verbal abuse.[2] In the report, Bary's father states that he did pick up his daughter's laptop to throw it, but did not throw it due to the cost of the laptop.[2] The FDLE report also listed several statements by Rifqa Bary which were not supported by evidence.[2] Rifqa Bary stated to them that her father did not know that she was a cheerleader, but the FDLE report states that pictures of her in uniform were prominently displayed in the family's home three days later when the police visited and interviewed them. Furthermore, Mr. Bary signed the permission slip for her to be a cheerleader when Mrs. Bary would not.[2] Rifqa Bary stated that a teacher offered her refuge due to the abuse she suffered. The FDLE report states that the teacher was unaware of any abuse and was concerned about parties with alcohol consumption that Rilvan was having when their parents were away.[2] The FDLE report also stated that they did not investigate anyone in the larger Ohio Muslim community and that Florida authorities relied in part on the investigation done by authorities in Ohio.[2] The FDLE report has been criticized by John Guandolo, a former FBI agent writing for the Center for Security Policy who said that under Islamic law apostasy is a capital offense.[2][13] The FDLE responded that it had conducted a thorough investigation.[2]

On October 13, 2009, Orange County (Florida) Judge Daniel P. Dawson ruled that he would return Bary to Ohio pending a settlement of her immigration status.[11] Emergency custody continues in Ohio.[7]

Return to Ohio[edit]

On October 27, 2009, Bary was returned to Ohio and temporarily placed in the custody of Franklin County Children Services.[14] The public agency was to monitor her internet and phone use[15] and hoped to reunite the family before August 10, 2010, when Bary would turn 18-years-old.[1] A case-management plan was filed on December 1, 2009, stating that Bary and her family needed to have face-to-face talks about their understanding of Christianity and Islam as one step toward reunification.[1]

On December 22, 2009, a magistrate of the Franklin county juvenile court denied Bary's parents' request for forced mediation and set the date for the dependency hearing for the end of January.[16][17] The hearing was canceled on January 19, 2010, when a deal between the parties was reached with Bary becoming a dependent of the State of Ohio in exchange for admitting that she broke the rules when she ran away. On January 29, 2010, once it was learned that Bary would be allowed to contact Reverend Lorenz and his wife, Bary's parents, on the strict advice of their lawyer, requested to back out of the deal.[citation needed] On March 2, 2010, Judge Elizabeth Gill denied their request and ordered them to continue their counseling sessions so that Rifqa could return home to her family before she turned 18.[18]

In June 2010 Rifqa graduated from Focus Learning Academy.

On August 10, 2010, Bary turned 18 years old and Franklin County Children Services' custody of her ended.[19][20]

After the gag order was lifted on her hearings, her father and mother alleged that Bary had sent them a video two weeks prior, along with candy and music, saying she loved them. They also stated that Bary sent them letters including one where she thanked them for helping her be a successful student. Despite these alleged communications, the parents' Ohio attorney, Omar Tarazi, indicated that Barys have not had a private face-to-face conversation with their daughter, even in the presence a family counsellor, since she ran away.[21] In September 2010, Rifqa received permanent residence status and can apply for United States citizenship once she turns 23.[22] Omar dropped his lawsuit against Rifqa's lawyer, but he continued to try to sue Pamela Geller until September 21, 2011.[23][24]

Public debate[edit]

The situation drew international attention[11] and became a cause célèbre[4] and point of "hostility between some Christians and Muslims."[25]

Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida claimed that the controversy was caused "by far-right religious groups" portraying Islam and Muslims as extreme fundamentalists who might kill a child.[25] Harry Coverston, a professor of religion, theorized that some individuals must have an enemy.[25] Writing in FrontPage Magazine, Robert Spencer described the whole incident as a "slow-motion honor killing"[26] while Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio made statements in support of Bary. Mathew Staver, president of the Liberty University School of Law and lawyer for the Lorenzes said, "Lorenz had a legitimate reason to believe Rifqa Bary was in fear of her life because she'd converted to Christianity."

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Welsh-Huggins, Andrew (December 1, 2009). "Caseworker: Runaway, parents must talk religion". Seattle Times. Associated Press. Retrieved October 29, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Investigative Summary OR-73-1741". Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Retrieved October 16, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kruse, Michael (October 11, 2009). "The life Rifqa Bary ran away from". The St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved October 19, 2009. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Padgett, Tim (August 24, 2009). "A Florida Culture-War Circus Over Rifqa Bary". Time. Retrieved October 16, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Miller, Joshua Rhett (August 31, 2009). "Attorney Targets Alleged Terror Ties in Case of Runaway Girl". Fox News. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ Parents of US teen convert brace for tough fight
  7. ^ a b John Couwels (October 14, 2009). "Runaway teen Christian convert must return to Ohio, judge rules". CNN. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Statement from Noor Islamic Cultural Center" (Press release). Noor Islamic Cultural Center. September 4, 2009. Retrieved October 28, 2009. 
  9. ^ Edwards, Amy L. (December 23, 2009). "Pastors in Rifqa Bary case knew they broke law, ex-church official says". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  10. ^ Schneider, Mike (August 21, 2009). "Runaway convert to stay in Fla. pending hearing". SiFy (India enterprise news). Associated Press. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  11. ^ a b c Edwards, Amy L.; Stutzman, Rene (August 21, 2009). "Runaway teen convert: Judge may decide next chapter for Rifqa Bary,17-year-old convert". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved October 16, 2009. 
  12. ^ Green, Amy (October 17, 2009). "Teen Feared Death After Change from Islam to Christianity". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  13. ^ Jacim, Tracy (September 18, 2009). "Couple who sheltered Rifqa Bary speak". WOFL (Fox 35 Orlando). Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  14. ^ John Couwels (October 27, 2009). "Runaway teen Christian convert returned to Ohio". CNN. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  15. ^ Heagney, Meredith (October 28, 2009). "Agency to watch runaway teen's Internet, cell use". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved October 29, 2009. 
  16. ^ Coueignoux, Stephanie (December 23, 2009). "Will Religious Runaway Return To Her Parents?". Central Florida News 13. Retrieved December 23, 2009. [dead link]
  17. ^ Heagney, Meredith (December 23, 2009). "Ruling: Runaway teen doesn't have to talk to family". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved December 23, 2009. 
  18. ^ Heagney, Meredith (March 3, 2010). "Rifqa's judge orders counseling". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  19. ^ Andrew Welsh-Huggins (August 10, 2010). "Teen convert to Christianity leaves state custody". The Washington Times. Associated Press. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  20. ^ Meredith Heagney (August 10, 2010). "Case ends as Rifqa Bary turns 18: Runaway convert might become Christian evangelist". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  21. ^ "Rifqa's dad: 'We love her. We want the best for her'". August 10, 2010. 
  22. ^ SPENCER: REWARD WARRANTED FOR HELPING RIFQA
  23. ^ Lawyer for parents of runaway drops suit
  24. ^ [1]
  25. ^ a b c Heagney, Meredith (September 14, 2009). "Amid a holy war: National debate over a Columbus teen's faith exposes hostility between some Christians and Muslims". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved October 16, 2009. 
  26. ^ Spencer, Robert. "A Slow-Motion Honor Killing". FrontPage Magazine. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]