Ex-Muslim teenager doing well in Ohio foster care
COLUMBUS, Ohio (BP)--Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old girl who fled her family's home after converting from Islam to Christianity, is doing well in foster care, attending weekly counseling sessions and will graduate from high school in June, Bary's attorney told an Ohio judge April 5.
The attorney, Angela Lloyd, also asked Franklin County Domestic Relations Judge Elizabeth Gill to rule that Bary would not be reunited with her parents by Aug. 10 -- her 18th birthday -- so she can file for special immigration status while she is still a minor, the Columbus Dispatch reported. That would allow Bary to petition to remain in the United States without her parents' consent.
Bary's family needs new immigration documents to remain in the country, attorneys have said in court, and Bary's attorney is seeking to separate the 17-year-old from the family's new application, the Dispatch reported. Gill said another hearing on the girl's immigration status would be held soon.
The girl ran away to Florida in July 2009, saying that her Muslim father, Mohamed Bary, threatened to kill her for becoming a Christian. Florida's Department of Children and Families took emergency protective custody of her in August 2009 and placed her with foster parents. Her parents denied the accusations, and on Oct. 13 a judge ordered her returned to Ohio, where she was placed in the custody of a local children's services agency.
In an affidavit filed in August 2009, Bary said 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.
For his part, Bary's father claims his daughter was 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 said she faced imminent harm not only from her family but from the radical Muslim community in her hometown of Columbus.
Bary's attorney at the time, 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 2009 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.
Muslim tradition holds 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.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.