Co-Authored by Amad
Now Mike Kruse of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) have reported that there is “no evidence whatsoever of alleged abuse or threats of death made by the girl's parents.”
Thursday, the state Department of Children Families asked that Bary no longer be allowed to visit with Blake and Beverly Lorenz. The judge agreed, although he let her continue to visit with the Lorenzes' three children, who are in their 20s, and whom Bary considers “dear friends and spiritual advisers,” according to John Stemberger, her attorney.
The case of Fathima Rifqa Bary is interesting to say the least. The 17-year old, who arrived with her family from Sri Lanka less than a decade ago, ran away from home in Ohio to Florida, allegedly because she was afraid of being killed by her father after her decision to leave Islam for Christianity. Fathima, a cheerleader in her high-school, took a bus to Florida right after a fight with her mother. Conveniently the ticket was already purchased for her and paid for by a Blake Lorenz, a Florida pastor (and wife Beverly Lorenzo), who Fathima met on Facebook, and who was quoted as saying, “Christians are at war with Islam and that Islam is evil”.
Question: How can a minor have her inter-state travel arranged without her parents' consent and with the aid of a total stranger, who might have as well been a pedophile? Isn't this illegal? If Blake Lorenz was such a Good Samaritan, and was so concerned about Fathima's life, why did he not just do the “normal” thing and contact the local authorities in Ohio (CPS and/or police)? Blake's intervention, especially based on his views about Islam and Muslims, can easily be seen as carrying an agenda beyond the “kind pastor” shtick.
Fathima's claim about her father's murderous appetite was also flatly dismissed by the Ohio authorities. In an article in the The Columbus Dispatch, Sgt. Jerry Cupp of the missing-persons unit of the Columbus police special-victims bureau, disputes Fathima's allegation saying
[H]er father, Mohamed Bary, appears to be a loving parent who knew about her conversion to Christianity months ago.
Wait, did he just say knew about her conversion to Christianity months ago?! Why wait till now to threaten to kill her? And if he threatened to kill her for some time, why wait until this point? So many questions and very few answers in this curious story.
Back to our story then, like any concerned parent would do, Fathima's parents contacted the local police department to file a missing persons report. Except that Fathima was already on her way to Florida, where Lorenz was assisting in having a case filed in the State of Florida to gain custody of the Fathima.
One of the beautiful things that is advertised about living in the United States is that the same law is applied to everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do. But not apparently in the case of Muslims anymore, as we see time and time again. As Mike Thomas reports in an excellent and objective piece in the Orlando Sentinel, aptly entitled, “Anti-Muslim bias obvious in Fathima Rifqa Bary case”,
The case went to court last week. And in a rather surprising twist, rather than send Rifqa back to Ohio, Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson decided to investigate Ohio. And so the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is off to determine her survival chances there.
What jurisdiction does Florida have in this case at all? Is the girl from Florida? No. Are her parents from Florida? No. Was any crime committed in Florida in this case? No. Is there a case for using tort law? No.
So, what is this case doing in Florida? As Mike Thomas's piece highlights,
Left unanswered is what business Florida has involving itself in this matter. The people best suited to determine the threat level to Rifqa are the cops and social workers in Ohio familiar with the Bary family and the Muslim community. It appeared they had worked out a good compromise plan, allowing Rifqa to go into foster care while they ensured her safety.
Thus, on Monday August 10th, a judge in the 9th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida placed the girl in the custody of the state's Department of Children and Families. To add salt to injury, the court also ruled that Rev. Blake and his wife are allowed visitation to the daughter along with her biological father. What legal custody does this Pastor have over this minor? If anything Blake should be charged with arranging for illegal inter-state transportation of a minor, not be rewarded for his role!
One can't help but consider Governor Charlie Crist's intervention in the Florida court's decision to keep Fathima in the state. Again Mike Thomas doesn't let the politics slip by, noting that Gov. Crist is facing a strong challenge from Marco Rubio in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. Forget the relationship between this minor and her parents, forget civil and constitutional rights, as long as Crist can use his intervention to gain a few brownie points on election day. Of course Crist's challenger couldn't be left behind. Rubio also issued a statement in support of Fathima and spammed it all over the net. What happened to the America that I once knew?!
Imagine, for a second, if an imām was in the same position as the pastor, god forbid. Not only would he be crucified in the media, but it would not come as a surprise if he were accused of brainwashing, along with child abuse, and, if not a citizen, be deported! Such double standards are quashing all attempts by sincere people on both sides to close the gap between the minority Muslim Americans and majority non-Muslims.
I am having a hard time believing that devoted Muslim parents with “claimed” ties to radical Islam allowed their 17-year old daughter to wear short-skirts, jumping up and down, cheerleading in her school. Putting this aside, there is no history, claim or knowledge of any physical abuse by her parents. These are the very same parents who were interviewed on their local news channel saying that their daughter was coached by this Evangelic Pastor to broadcast a violent image of Islam and her family.
Everything about this case has been nothing more than drama, at least this is how I see it. Watch this video of Fathima, as she tries to cry but tears don't cooperate! The cross that she shows off around her neck, the bible that she reads in the court, the claims that she was abused, and pretty much all of the rest, appear to be nothing but synchronized by the pastor-coach. Even her own brother makes the same judgment about her.
And what irony, that her life was in no danger until the pastor decided to make her into a media spectacle, fronting her in front on national and international television. In my opinion, the safety of the girl is the last thing this Pastor had in mind; rather his goal was to use the girl as a way to defame Islam and Muslims.
What bothers me the most is that Mohamed Bary, the girl's father, is seen not as an individual, but somehow as a representative of a religion. I personally don't really care much for the girl, she has made her decision, and she will be bear the consequences for such decision, but the loss of a child for the parents, who came to America to live the American dream, and the public humiliation that the parents have had to endure is indeed heart breaking.
What a story, don't you think? It also provides a glimpse of a sad reality of some born-Muslims who leave their religion. We, as Muslims, are facing a great challenge as those before us, from the Irish, to the Italians, and even the Jews faced. That is how to keep our identity as Muslims while raising our children in this country. Lectures and programs have discussed this issue, and yet we fail to put together a compelling solution.
Also, this should serve as a reminder for those who want to live in the United States or in the West in general: take care of your children! There appears to have been something seriously wrong within the family of Fathima, in how she would raise such a battle-cry against her own kin. It would seem that there was a communication breakdown and possibly lack of proper religious learning, wallahualam.
Many a time, Muslims, especially new immigrants, who are trying to establish the American dream, get so caught up in this dream that they forget the very reason that they grabbed on to that dream in the first place: for the sake of their families' betterment. And betterment has to include not just materialistic issues, but spiritual and religious betterment. Otherwise, what good is the duniya when it forces you to give up on the akhira?
So, talk to your children, teach them, and be role models for them. If you need to learn how, then take a class about raising your children, read a book on the subject, listen to some audio, but do something. I am not talking to my parent's generation, rather I am talking to my generation. You are educated, you grew up here or spent substantial amount of years here, you already know the system… all what is missing is for you to own up to the challenge. I can't help it but remember the hadith of the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him where he said, “You are all shepherds and you are responsible for your flock”. Our parents already decided for us to live in this country, hence it is time for us to face the challenge of practicing our religion and keeping our heritage, while living the American way of life.
Finally, about honor killings (the oxymoron it is), there is no sane Muslim who knows anything about his/her own religion, who doesn't also know that individual members of the society cannot take matters of life and death in their own hands. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find one undisputed example of a Muslim-turned-non-Muslim being killed by a family member in the West. And since indisputably, there are a few “apostates” every year, it can mean only one thing: this whole issue about fearing one's own family is a joke, just like how the judiciary in Fathima's case has acted thus far. It is primarily and significantly motivated by Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bias.
Matters of hadd (Islamic penal code) can only be applied by a state authority in an Islamic state, which certainly doesn't exist for Muslims residing in the West, and one could argue doesn't exist anywhere around the globe. Even the entire issue of apostasy and its punishment is complicated but suffice to say, it has absolutely ZERO relevance to the case of Fathima or any other apostate from Islam in the West.