Muslim women overseas have long had to deal with the threat of honor killings, but several incidents in recent years show that the threat has come to American soil.
A 17-year old girl named Fathima Rifqa Bary is currently engaged in a custody battle after fleeing her father in Ohio, who she claimed threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity. She is currently in the hands of the Florida Department of Children and Family Services. Before that, she was living with Pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz of Global Revolution Church in Orlando, who she became friends with through Facebook.
Bary says she took an approximately 30-hour bus ride from Ohio to Orlando in September to save her life. A video of her testimony has been posted on YouTube, where she cries as she explains that her family is required by Islam to execute her and that she’d die within a week of going back to Ohio.
Her father, Mohamed, however, is saying she did not flee out of fear, but because of a verbal fight with her mother over her leaving the house without permission and says that the church has brainwashed Fathima.
“This is a cult group who kidnapped my daughter and took her away,” he said.
The pastors have rejected the allegation, saying she converted to Christianity before they even met.
Mohamed says that he is willing to accept her conversion, and the Sgt. Jerry Cupp of the Columbus Police Department’s Missing Persons Unit has sided with Mohamed, saying the father is not a threat.
Fathima and the pastors are being personally attacked by some Muslim media outlets for her claims.
Also siding with Mohamed is David Miller Smith of Pakistan Daily, who wrote an article about the dispute on August 15, titled “Pregnant Minor Lanka Girl Kidnapped by Ohio Christian Church-Brainwashed Against Parents-Forcibly Converted.” The report claims that Fathima’s parents said she was using drugs and engaging in sexual communication with middle-aged men online.
“When the parents tried to control her behaviour she refused to do so. On her return to the home she conjured up a story of conversion to Christianity…How many more girls will the church kidnap?” Miller asks in his article, which has now been removed from the newspaper’s website. Apparently the editors learned that the no other source reported these allegations, there is no evidence that Fathima is pregnant, that the church is located in Florida and not Ohio, and that the article reports that she was “forcibly converted” but then says that she “conjured up” her conversion.
Honor killings have come to the U.S. and Canada in recent years, and are increasing in Europe, giving credence to Bary’s fears.
On February 12, a Muslim TV broadcaster portraying himself as a moderate named Muzzammil Hassan reported to the police that his wife was dead, leading to his arrest. He pled not guilty in court. His wife was found stabbed several times and with her head severed after she handed him divorce papers. She had previously told the police that her husband was abusive and controlling, and cited “cruel and inhumane treatment” when she filed for divorce six days earlier.
Hassan had previously received an award from the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2007 for his creation of Bridges TV, which he had ironically said was aimed at fighting back against anti-Muslim sentiment and stereotypes.
On July 6, 2008, police arrived at the Jonesboro, Georgia home of Chaudry Rashid following to 9-11 calls, including one presumably of Rashid, saying, “My daughter’s dead.” The 25-year old woman, who had decided to divorce from her arranged husband, was found strangled to death. Rashid was arrested, and police officers say he admitted to killing her with a bungee cord for violating their religion.
On January 1, 2008, Sarah and Aimna Said, ages 17 and 18 respectively, were found shot to death in a taxi cab in Irving, Texas. The FBI believes that their Egyptian father, Yaser Abdel Said, murdered them, and he is still on the loose.
The girls’ great-aunt agrees with the authorities, and some of their friends at school say they saw bruises on Sarah and Aimna, which they stated came from him. The girls and their mother even was forced to flee their father in December 2007 after Sarah received a text message containing a death threat from him. Shortly after returning, they were murdered.
Muslim activists, scholars and organizations need to take a strong public stand against the honor killing of women and any type of abuse in retaliation for “shaming” their families. So far, organizations like the Islamic Society of North America have condemned violence against women, but have failed to publicly and aggressively challenge the theological justification for such acts.
Fighting for gender equality is critical to winning the struggle against radical Islam, and stopping honor killings is a good place to start.