Not since France�s banning of wearing the hijab or Islamic
headwear in schools has institutional Islamophobia unveiled its ugly head under
the spotlight of world attention. In Florida, political pressure has caused the
scale of justice to tilt.
The case of Rifqa Bary -- a 17 year old Muslim girl who
converted to Christianity then ran away from her parents� home in Ohio (to
Florida) -- has set the stage for the ideological bankrupt neocons and right-wing
evangelicals to pursue another desperate attempt to resuscitate their all but
defunct �clash of civilization� scare.
Rifqa claimed that her parents believe in �honor killing�
and that they were planning to execute her as a result of her religious
conversion -- a claim that later proved inconsistent, to say the least.
Discrepancies in Rifqa�s account emerged when her parents
started to openly discuss their daughter�s situation. Clearly Rifqa had her way
with her family. �We love her; we want her back. She is free to practice her
religion, whatever she believes in. That�s okay,� Mr. Bary told media and law
The local police, the children�s services and the county
prosecutor in Ohio all concluded that the Bary family is a caring family who is
genuinely concerned about the well-being of their daughter. The Bary family
knew about their daughter�s conversion three years earlier, and had even
allowed her to join the cheerleading team of her high school.
The parents believe that their daughter was �brainwashed� by
an Internet-based virtual pastor by the name of Blake Lorenz who leads a
religious outfit called the Global Revolution Church. Mr. Lorenz openly
espouses anti-Islamic views. He has been quoted saying, �Christians are at war
with Islam and Islam is evil.�
It should surprise no one that this case has attracted a
who�s who among the usual suspects -- the founder of paranoia-fueling website
JihadWatch, Robert Spencer; the notorious neocon policy worrier and the founder
of Center for security Policy, Frank Gaffney and right-wing �legal pit-bull,�
John Stemberger, to name a few.
Their strategy was predictably straight out of the neocon/right-wing
playbook crafted by the same overzealous special interest ideologues whose
�global war on terrorism� policy has left a legacy of destruction and massive
political debris around the world that will take generations to clean.
To these political predators, facts are variables; they are
inflated when they are available to support their cause and are conveniently ignored
when they are not. They rely on propaganda as the means to demonize and
dehumanize others. And they use any means at their disposal to reach their
goal, regardless of the fairness, decency, or how their actions may hurt
In dealing with the case at hand, instead of providing
convincing evidence to support Rifqa�s claim, they resorted to a two-track
strategy that puts the brand of Sharia (Islamic law) that promotes the killing
of an apostate on trial, and wage a smear campaign on the Noor Islamic and
Cultural Center (NICC) in Columbus area by accusing it of espousing extremist
ideologies and being connected to international terrorism. [This author is one
of the many Central Ohio Muslims who worship in that center]
Of course, this diversionary tactic is designed to stir
public suspicion and outrage. It is nothing but a smokescreen to cover the real
issues. Whether a minor has a choice and whether a non-family adult could hide
During a controversial fatwa -- religious edict -- that
sentenced an Afghani man who converted to Christianity to death a few years
ago, over 100 scholars in the US and many more around the world have written a
unified opinion that no one should be sentenced to death for deciding to change
his or her religion. And that the only time such sentence has a religious (as
well as secular) justification is in case of proven treason against the state.
The Qur�an -- the highest authority of the moral code in
Islam -- unequivocally states, �Let there be no compulsion in religion,�
Chapter 2: Verse 256. Because, like love and similar matters of the heart,
faith is a conviction embraced in the heart; and as such, can never be forced.
Forcing such matters renders the opposite effect.
Also, in Chapter 4: Verse 137, God says, �Behold, as for
those who come to believe, and then deny the truth (converted or became
apostate) and again come to believe and again deny the truth and thereafter,
grow stubborn in their denial of the truth, God will not forgive them, nor will
He guide them in any way.� This verse clearly indicates that even those who
professed Islam and then rejected it more than once cannot be condemned to
execution. They are only accountable to God.
Also, in Chapter 18: Verse 29, God says, �The Truth is from
your Lord; so let him who please believe and let him who please disbelieve.�
�Hate groups appear to be using this family matter as an
opportunity to attack the Muslim community and Islamic organizations in order
to further their religious and political goals,� read a statement issued by
�These Islamophobes are not only paranoiac but are so
manipulative. Their method of guilt by association is comical in a way and
dangerous in another. To follow their logic is to declare the disciples of
Jesus who joined him in the last supper as co-conspirators in the crucifixion�
added Dr. Hany Saqr, the center�s director.
Back to the real issue of contention: on their part,
investigators from Florida have completed their interstate investigation. Their
findings are believed to be in agreement with previous investigations done in
Ohio. Their report was submitted to Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson, who, instead
of sending Rifqa back to her parents, decided to grant a motion filed by Mr.
Stemberger in which he requested the evidence be sealed -- evidence that could
very well vindicate the parents.
The Florida statute dealing with Juvenile Justice and
Interstate Compact on Juveniles is clear: �A person may not knowingly provide
aid to an unmarried minor who has run away from home without first contacting
the minor�s parent or guardian or notifying a law enforcement officer.� Mr.
Lorenz hid the runaway girl for two weeks; however, no one is after him, so
far. He is currently �reorganizing� his church to protect it from future
In this all too familiar circus, I cannot help but wonder: What
if a non-Muslim minor were recruited through the Internet by an adult imam
(Muslim cleric) who leads a religious entity called the Global Revolution
Mosque whose objective is to target youth of all ages in order to change the
world through spiritual revolution?
Abukar Arman is a writer who lives in Ohio. His
articles and analysis are widely published.