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The Revelation of Rifqa By: Faith J. H. McDonnell
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 28, 2009


The most well publicized honor killing in America is one that did not take place. Seventeen year old Rifqa Bary disappeared from her home in New Albany, Ohio in mid July, and surfaced in Florida on August 10, 2009. The teenager, who comes from a Sri Lankan Muslim family, sought refuge in Orlando with a pastor and his wife whom she had met through a Facebook prayer group. At a jurisdiction hearing in an Orlando juvenile court on August 21, Rifqa testified that she had fled because her father threatened to kill her for shaming the family by leaving Islam and becoming a Christian. “My life is at stake,” Rifqa said in an earlier interview. “My dad threatened me. I was ready to die, these were my thoughts, that I’ll be a martyr for Christ, let it be so! But the Lord led me here somehow through His grace . . . . . it’s been God’s hand protecting me the entire time. But I’m fighting for my life.”

 

Rifqa is far more fortunate than Amina and Sarah Said of Dallas, who were shot to death in an Islamic honor killing by their father, Yaser Abdel Said, an Egyptian-born cab driver. No one has had the opportunity to strangle Rifqa, as was done to Aqsa Parvez, a sixteen year old in Ontario whose father killed her for refusing to wear a hijab.  Rifqa is the one who got away, and whose photograph, thank God, is not found in the tragic gallery of honor killing victims from all over North America and Europe put together by advocate and activist Pamela Geller on her Atlas Shrugs blog. Another difference between Rifqa and the other bright, beautiful young women killed by their Islamist fathers, brothers, and husbands is that her testimony to her faith in Jesus Christ is now reverberating around the world. At the August 21 hearing, Rifqa told Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson, “I’ve been a Christian for four years of my life. . . . I assure your Honor, Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” Because of this, says author Brigitte Gabriel, the danger for Rifqa Bary is “far beyond honor killing.”

 

“This girl has committed apostasy,” Gabriel said on Fox News, “She has committed a crime against the Ummah, or nation state of Islam.” Gabriel went on to explain that apostasy was punishable by death according to all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence, as well as the Koran, the Hadith – the words of Mohammed himself, and particularly the Shafi’i school of Islamic jurisprudence which guides Islam in Sri Lanka. “She is in dire danger not only from her family because she has soiled the honor of the family, but from the Islamic community in Columbus, Ohio who feel it is their duty to kill her according to their religion,” Gabriel explained.  

 

Judge Dawson found Rifqa’s story feasible enough to rule that she be kept in protective custody in Florida until a further hearing on September 3 decides her ultimate fate, but a skeptical media has insinuated that Rifqa is nothing more than a rebellious, hormonal teenager from a loving Muslim family, brainwashed by Christians. It’s easy to be cavalier when it is not your own life at stake. And Christians are always easy targets. Just throw around phrases such as “crusade” and “right-wing” and the article writes itself! Less understandable is that both secular and Christian women’s groups have made virtually no statements in support of Rifqa. Secular feminists and mainline church women rail against misogyny, homophobia, patriarchy in the church, masculine images of God, and other forms of gender injustice. Evangelical women’s groups seem to fall into two categories. They are either absorbed with issues closer to home – marriage, family, finances, and domestic political issues such as abortion or homosexuality – or they are embracing the lately-awakened sense of “justice” among evangelical progressives. Unfortunately, the anti-torture,/pro-environment,/make poverty history/reform health care “evangelical” progressives don’t seem to include the petite teenager’s life and death struggle as a justice issue. Those few that have spoken of Rifqa Bary mostly echo the media’s skepticism, painstakingly demonstrating their tolerant, open minds when it comes to Islam.

 

An August 13 blog entry on a notable Christian women’s blog, Her.maneutics epitomizes this cautious, uber-tolerant attitude of many evangelicals. “The Persecuted Rifqa Bary?” the title inquires doubtfully. Blogger Katelyn Beaty frowns that Rifqa’s story is being used by Christian bloggers and media “as proof of Islam’s violent roots and the cost of following Christ.” Following Christ is costly “no matter who’s doing the following,” comments Beaty, equating high school ridicule and social ostracism with say, beheading . She adds that the evidence of Islam’s violent roots “is disputable” in the case of Rifqa.

 

Just as the secular media did, Beaty throws suspicion on Pastors Blake and Beverly Lorenz of Global Revolution Church. Inadverently, she uses several of the same key talking points that the Council on American Islamic Relations (C.A.I.R.) has put forth in their efforts to discredit Rifqa. She quotes the Bary family attorney who claimed that Bary was not afraid until she met Pastor Lorenz. Beaty adds signficantly that Lorenz “holds Bary tightly throughout the video.” Beaty also notes that the famous scholar of Islam Sgt. Jerry Cupp of the Columbus missing person’s bureau “disputes Bary’s claims, telling The Columbus Dispatch that Mohamed Bary has known about his daughter's conversion for months and appears to be caring.” Guess what, Sgt. Cupp and Ms. Beaty. Appearing to be caring is called taqiya. And Beaty does not mention, that other sources say that the police talked to friends and teachers of Rifqa who informed them that Rifqa was in fear for her life and had been the victim of abuse already.  Beaty does cite author and founder of Jihad Watch, Robert Spencer, who calls Rifqa’s situation a “slow-motion honor killing,” but then exclaims that The Christian Post “audaciously lists Bary’s story in its ‘persecution’ news file.” I wonder where she would suggest they list it.

 

Beaty concludes that believers can rejoice that “this teenager has come to Christ in a cultural context in which it would be difficult to betray her parents' teaching.” Describing conversion to Christ as betrayal of the teachings of Islam is a rather odd way for a fellow Christian to phrase the situation, but not unheard of. A speaker on religious persecution at the General Assembly of the National Council of Churches some years ago spoke similarly when she stated disapprovingly that the only Christians who “experience difficulties” in Iran were those who “have chosen to leave the communities of faith into which they were born.”

 

Finally, says Beaty, “none of this requires that Christians be quick to use Bary's claims to prove that Muslims — in this case, her parents and mosque leaders — are intent on killing Bary because their beliefs make them inherently violent.” She instructs incongruously that “we should also remember the Christians worldwide who actually risk death by Muslims for following Christ: like those in Pakistan and Nigeria.” But the words of Mohammed, "If anyone changes his religion, kill him" (Hadith – Sahih Al-Bukhari 9.84.57) mean the same thing in Ohio that they do in Asia, and Africa.

 

Perhaps Beaty and others like her should consider that many of those who have been “quick” to believe Rifqa Bary are not interested in proving a point about Muslims, but in protecting a vulnerable girl, convinced that when it comes to honor killing and apostasy it is better to err on the side of caution than to add another name and face to the list of the dead. The best assessment of most of the American Christian church’s comprehension of life under Islamic law came from Rifqa herself. Trying to explain the danger she faces from her Muslim parents, the Islamic community in the Columbus, Ohio area, and the entire Ummah, she exclaimed despairingly, “I’m fighting for my life, you guys don’t understand. You don’t understand.”


Faith J. H. McDonnell directs The Institute on Religion and Democracy’s Religious Liberty Program and Church Alliance for a New Sudan, and is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).


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