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Yesterday afternoon, my living room was filled with lights, cameras, and two very friendly ABC crew men. We were taping an interview for Good Morning America which appeared today and which is preserved at their website. We talked about honor killings and the plight of Fathima Rifqa Bary, the Muslim teenager from Ohio who converted to Christianity and who ran away from home because she knows her father will kill her.
Seventeen year-old Rifqa’s interview is heartbreaking. She knows that if a Muslim leaves Islam, converts to another religion, is an “apostate,” that they are supposed to be killed by any other Muslim; this includes members of her own family.
If someone from a Jewish or Christian fundamentalist home converts out, they may be ostracized, they may be treated as if they had died, but they are not physically killed.
Weeping, the very frightened teenager from Sri Lanka knows that most western journalists (and the police who turned her over to the state and forced her into a public trial), do not believe this can be true. How quickly they forget Salman Rushdie’s plight. How easily everyone is lulled into viewing fundamentalist Islam as a religion just like any other, as if Islam-on-the-march today is still the “soft,” cosmopolitan, hospitable culture it has occasionally been in the past, in certain cities and for certain monied people.
In 1989, the authorities in St Louis Missouri, also chose to allow a battered and bruised Palestina Isa, who had turned to them for help, to remain at the cruel mercies of the very family that had battered her. Palestina was sixteen-years-old and her father was, quite literally, a Palestinian terrorist. The social worker who made a home visit agreed that kids were difficult to control but that the effort to do so must be made. Palestina was held down by her mother as her father viciously kept stabbing her. Palestina’s crime? She had an African-American friend who was a boy, and her mother, sisters, and father all perceived her as a “whore” because she was becoming too “westernized.”
Now, twenty years later, Rifqa Bary is trying to make us understand something that we still fail to comprehend, do not want to believe is true. On camera, Rifqa keeps saying: “You guys don’t understand, my life is at stake, this is reality, this is the truth, they have to kill me if they love God more than they love me.” You can see her interview here.
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