Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, an honor student and cheerleader, was raised in a Muslim family in Columbus, Ohio. She became a Christian four years ago as a result of her interactions with children at school.
Atlas Shrugs' Pamela Geller has followed Bary's case closely, reporting that the girl's friends accompanied her to the school counselor after they noticed bruises covering her arms and legs that allegedly resulted from beatings by her father and brother.
"The middle school, in a serious dereliction of duty, did not report these beatings to child welfare services," Geller reported. "Beatings were random, violent, unprovoked. Take, for example, when Rifqa and her father Mohamed were driving in the car. He would force her to wear the hijab (head covering), which she hated. In her discomfort she would slouch down, embarrassed, and her father would haul off and sock her in the face so that she never forgot to sit up straight in her costume. The beatings were regular and so much a part of the landscape of Rifqa's life, she became inured to them …"
Bary, a native of Sri Lanka, hitchhiked to a bus station and ran away from home on July 19 because she says her family will murder her in what is known as an honor killing. In Islamic tradition, an honor killing is the customary slaughter of a person who is believed to have brought dishonor upon his or her family.
Fox News reported that legal experts have said she will almost certainly be forced to return to her parents' home in Ohio where she will be required to live with her parents since Ohio does not have an emancipation statute. According to the report, Florida has such a statute, but it requires parental consent.
The teen's attorney, John Stemberger, filed a petition for adjudication of dependency on Aug 18.
Blake Lorenz embraced the emotional teen as she told her story in the following video posted on YouTube:
"I'm a Christian, and my parents are Muslim. They are extremely devout," she said. "They threatened to kill me. … You guys wouldn't understand. 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 fighting for my life. ..."
Asked what her father, Mohamed Bary, told her, she replied, "He said he would kill me. Or he'd have me sent back to Sri Lanka where they'd put me in the asylum."
She said she left a note for her parents before she ran away: "I said, 'I refuse to deny Jesus. He is my Lord and Savior. I pray you find his forgiveness and mercy, and I love you both dearly.' I wrote that, but they never showed it to the police officers."
Bary warned that if she is forced to return to her family in Ohio, she will die "within a week."
Asked why she ran away, she said, "I was threatened by my dad. When my dad found out – I had a Facebook, that's how he found out – and phone calls from the Muslim community started coming in with e-mails that confronted me. And I had a laptop and he took that laptop and waved it in the air, and he was about to beat me with it, and he said, 'If you have this Jesus in your heart, you're dead to me. You're not my daughter.' And I refused to speak but he said, 'I will kill you. Tell me the truth.' In these words, bad words, cuss words. So I knew that I had to get away."
Atlas Shrugs reported that those members of the Muslim community, from Noor Islamic Cultural Center, warned Bary's father that his daughter was an apostate, so the teenager sought to escape with her life.
Bary said she would sneak out to Christian prayer meetings and hide her Bible from her parents. After her father confronted her, he forced her to attend several classes, hoping she would return to Islam. However, several weeks later, her mother discovered a Christian book that belonged to her.
"I knew right then that it was over for me," she said. "I had to leave."
Fox News reported that the father discovered she had been baptized earlier this year.
The teenager said that in the 150 generations of her family, no one has ever known Jesus.
"I am the first one," she said. "Imagine the honor in killing me."
Bary said she wants to remain in Florida so she can be free to worship Jesus, go to church and read her Bible.
"You talk about religious freedom?" she asked. "No! I don't have that. I want to be here. I want to worship Jesus freely. I don't want to die."
Bary's father, a jeweler, called the church a "cult" and claimed it has brainwashed Fatima.
"This is a cult group who kidnapped my daughter and took her away," Mohamed Bary told WESH 2 News.
He also denied the charges she is making and claims he does not intend to hurt her. He and his lawyer are in Florida, fighting to take his daughter back to Ohio.
Fathima Rifqa Bary has been the subject of various media attacks in recent weeks. Pakistan Daily reported, "The family maintains that the girls was into drugs, promiscuous behavior and raunchy messages on Facebook. She was discussing sex with multiple older married men. When the parents tried to control her behavior she refused to do so. On her return to the home she conjured up a story of conversion to Christianity. There are serious accusations against the church on holding a minor girl in custody against the will of her guardians and parents. How many more girls will the church kidnap?"
WND located the following photo of Bary with a boy named Tayee Adrian on Facebook. Messages left with Adrian and Global Revolution Church had not been returned at the time of this report.
Facebook photo of Fathima Rifqa Bary posted by boy named Tayee Adrian
Geller points out that the media appear to be focusing primarily on "the lies and deception of Rifqa Bary's devout Muslim family and their lawyers" and smearing the pastors for caring for Bary rather than immediately turning her over to her parents. She also said the Bary family mosque, Noor Islamic Center, is a hotbed of extremist activity, noting that Patrick Poole of Ohio Against Terror has reported extensively on extremist positions of its leaders.
Bary's Aug. 18 petition to the court states:
The child's parents are devout followers of Islam and members of the extreme Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Columbus, Ohio. This is where the internationally known Hama 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[sic] 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 [sic]. The child is a target for the radical Muslim community of Columbus, Ohio.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, author of "Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?" told Fox News Bary's life will be in danger if she is forced to return to her parents.
"Anyone who converts from Islam is considered an apostate, and apostasy is a capital crime," she said. "If she is returned to her family, if she is lucky, they will isolate her, beat her, threaten her, and if she is not 'presuaded' to return to Islam, they will kill her. They have no choice."
Chesler continued, "She escaped from her family's brutal tyranny and shamed her family further through public exposure. Muslim girls and women are killed for far less."
Meanwhile, International Christian Concern is urging Florida officials to retain custody of Bary.
In a statement, ICC said it is concerned about Rifqa because the Columbus police officer who investigated the case told the press that Rifqa's father "comes across to me as a loving, caring, worried father about the whereabouts and the health of his daughter."
However, ICC reveals that a source who spoke with the same investigating officer said the officer indicated earlier that he has spoken with 20 different people who warned him that the girl's life was in danger.
"We are extremely concerned about Rifqa," ICC President Jeff King wrote. "... Based on our extensive international experience with fundamentalist Islam, we strongly believe that Rifqa's life will be in danger if DCF decides to send her back to Ohio. We call upon authorities in Florida to retain custody of Rifqa."
Fathima Rifqa Bary now has more than 2,000 Facebook fans expressing their support for the young girl. However, one Facebook group titled, "Rifqa Bary's father 100% correct" was created by a man in Sri Lanka named Hashan Dilshan. The group has only 14 members – each with Islamic names.
One member named Mohammed Rizwan writes, "Rifqa, it's not your fault. Rifqa, please be cool and think about what you are going to and what you will get from this religion. Rifqa, nothing to worry. Allah with you always if you not close to him, but Allah always close to you [sic]."
In yet another message likely intended for the girl's father, Rizwan wrote, "Bary, you are correct. No one can do without Allah order! [sic] Go ahead … We are all together …"
Concerned individuals may e-mail Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, fill out a contact form, call his office at (850)488-4441 or (850)488-7146 or fax (850)487-0801.
The Florida Department of Children and Families may be reached by calling (850)487-1111 or fax (850)922-2993.
Verne Melvin, acting regional director of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Department of Children and Families, may be reached by calling (407)245-0400.