CORRECTED October 16 to delete paragraph two, removing the statement that Rifqa’s lawyers supported the order by Franklin County Juvenile Court Magistrate Mary Goodrich to place 17-year-old Rifqa Bary in the custody of the county’s Children Services agency. Her lawyers opposed this action.
ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old girl who fled her family’s home after converting from Islam to Christianity, was ordered Oct. 13 to return to Ohio where she will be in the custody of a local children’s services agency.
In July, Bary sought refuge in Orlando after saying that her father threatened her life. In August, Florida’s Department of Children and Families took emergency protective custody of her and placed her with foster parents.
Bary claims to have been a Christian for four years, a development she attempted to hide from her devout Muslim parents who are natives of Sri Lanka and now reside in the Columbus area. She reportedly hid a copy of the Bible in their home and secretly attended Christian meetings.
In an affidavit filed in August, Bary said in 2007 her father Mohamed Bary, a jeweler, found a copy of “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren hidden in her bedroom. He had a serious talk with her about retaining the Islamic bloodline in their family, she said, adding that she didn’t admit her conversion.
After receiving e-mails and phone calls from the family’s mosque, the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, urging him to “deal with this matter immediately,” Bary’s father asked her if she had converted to Christianity.
“In a fit of anger that I had never seen before in my life, he picked up my laptop, waved 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,'” Bary said in the affidavit, according to the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper.
“I continued to remain silent and then he said to me even more angry than before, ‘I will kill you! Tell me the truth!” Bary said.
In July, Bary’s mother found another Christian book she had hidden in her bedroom and in tears told her daughter she would have to be sent back to Sri Lanka “to be dealt with,” the affidavit said.
Bary’s father, meanwhile, claims his daughter has been brainwashed by the Orlando co-pastors she contacted shortly after arriving in town. She reportedly became acquainted with Blake and Beverly Lorenz of Global Revolution Church through a prayer group on Facebook. They gave her temporary shelter before she was transferred to a foster home, the Witness said.
“This is a cult group who kidnapped my daughter and took her away,” Mohamed Bary told an Orlando television station.
The petition filed on the daughter’s behalf in Florida said she faced imminent harm not only from her family but from the extreme radical Muslim community in her hometown of Columbus.
Bary’s attorney, a well-known pro-family lawyer in Florida, filed an Investigation and Intelligence Memorandum outlining four primary concerns about the Noor Center. The leader of the mosque previously was an imam for another area mosque at the same time the largest known al-Qaida cell in the U.S. since 9/11 was operating out of the mosque, the memorandum said, according to the Witness.
Also, a former Islamic scholar associated with the Noor Center has been photographed with men designated by the U.S. government as terrorist leaders, and he has appeared on television inciting violence against Jews.
The Noor Center, the memorandum said, has hosted a number of extremist speakers who have made statements in support of violence and terrorism, including one who has ties to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
And the center has been directly tied to an ongoing nationwide investigation into Somali-American youths who have trained in camps operated by a terror organization linked to al-Qaida, the memorandum said.
Even so, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation found in September no credible evidence that Bary was endangered by her Muslim parents. FDLE interviewed her parents at their home while two officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations were present.
Mohamed Bary told investigators he didn’t threaten his daughter but he did pick up the laptop and start to throw it before changing his mind due to the computer’s cost, the Witness reported. He also said he intends to raise his daughter as a Muslim, and as an adult she will be free to worship as she pleases.
Ergun Caner, president of Liberty Theological Seminary in Virginia, was raised in the Columbus mosque out of which the Bary family’s mosque was started. He converted to Christianity at age 16 and was disowned by his father, and now he serves as an apologist for the Christian faith.
Caner told the Witness that the FDLE report finding no evidence of a threat is an example of political correctness that could endanger Bary’s life.
“Her blood, which is almost certain to be shed if returned, is on their hands,” Caner told the newspaper. “The police and judicial branch in Florida were her last hope.”
Caner explained that Bary brings dishonor on her Muslim family by converting to Christianity, and death for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in the most sacred Muslim texts. He also criticized the FDLE for allowing CAIR representatives to be present during the interview of the Bary family.
Bary now will be turned over to Ohio foster care after her immigration records are properly filed and she receives assurance that she can continue classes with an online school system in Florida, the Witness said. A judge has set an Oct. 23 hearing to address details of the transfer of custody.
Compiled from Florida Baptist Witness coverage by Baptist Press staff writer Erin Roach. The Witness is online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com.