Exclusive: Will Florida Force Teenager to Face Death for Islam?

by MARGARET CALHOUN HEMENWAY August 21, 2009
Back in 2002, my then-Senate boss, Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) had the good fortune to meet with young Elian Gonzalez in Miami and with his extended Miami family. He was only six years old and his mother had perished tragically at sea on their raft, hoping to bring him to freedom and a better life. The Senator knew after questioning him at length that he wanted to stay in America. Sadly, the Clinton Administration, which changed Cuban asylum policy to wet foot/dry foot (meaning that those seeking refuge from the communist island nation had to make it to dry land), decided that Elian, miraculously found alive at sea by a fisherman, must be returned to the Cuban gulag. Eric Holder and Greg Craig, who today work for President Obama, were complicit in the violent, forced repatriation of this brave little Cuban survivor.
 
Worse, the Clinton Administration exploited the father, who was brought to America while his relatives were held back as virtual hostages of Castro in Cuba, to assure Americans that Elian's dad also wanted him brought home to Cuba. Only much later was it revealed from information produced by a lawsuit, that the father had participated in the lottery to escape Cuba. Public opinion at the time of the custody fight (since many Americans believed the child should be with the father and were left deliberately in the dark by the INS – Immigration and Naturalization Service – about the father's involvement in the lottery) was in favor of Elian's return to Cuba.
 
Today, we have another high-stakes custody dispute and equally compelling human drama in Florida involving a young woman who has fled her Muslim family in Columbus, Ohio, for refuge with a Christian family in Orlando. The stakes are high. While to this day, I fear for the mental well-being and happiness of Elian Gonzalez, the actual physical safety of this young woman is at risk. Rifqa Bary is an honors student, and a cheerleader, but like other young Muslim women in America, Canada and elsewhere, she has chafed at wearing the Islamic head covering – or hijab – that her father insists upon. She is said to have suffered beatings and bruises at her father's hand but her school, although apparently aware of the abuse, failed to report it to child welfare authorities. Rifqa has acknowledged that once her conversion to Christianity two years ago became known, her father took her laptop away, waved it in the air and threatened to beat her with it saying, "If you have this Jesus in your heart, you're dead to me. You're not my daughter" and then, "I will kill you." She fled the home in mortal fear and found a Christian pastor in Florida to take her in.
 
On August 21st, a hearing will decide her fate. Rifqa is currently in the custody of Florida's Department of Children and Families. Her parents now claim they would never hurt her and her local mosque and Islamic organizations are denying that there are "honor killings" in Islam, despite a number of such atrocities occurring in the U.S. Even the fact that news reports have covered these as "honor killings" indicates a slouching towards political correctness – there can be no "honor" in the deliberate murder of a wife, daughter, or loved one. 
 
It may be tempting for Americans to believe that a woman of 17 belongs at home with her parents. A closer examination of the family and the requirements of devout Muslims under Islam are warranted. According to an expert on Islam, Robert Spencer, the prophet Muhammed said, "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him (Bukhari, vol. 9, bk. 82, no. 57)...Rifqa Bary hails from Sri Lanka, where the Shafi'i school of Islamic jurisprudence prevails. A Shafi'i manual of Islamic law directs that "when a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (A: or his representative) to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does, it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed."  ('Umdat al-Salik 08.1-2).  
 
But beyond what all schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach, we already have numerous instances in this country and on the continent of women brutally killed by their husbands or fathers to defend the family honor. Sadly, this spate of killings has not received the attention it warrants from the mainstream media. Most recently, an apparent "honor killing" occurred near Washington, D.C., in a suburb of Alexandria, where a Muslim immigrant beat his wife to death with a car lock. The local newspaper tried to explain the killing as a result of cultural differences because in Ethiopia, women have more clearly defined roles. In fact, in Islamic societies, women have lesser rights. 
 
In another recent and shocking murder in upstate New York, a 37-year-old Muslim woman, Assiya Hassan, was beheaded by her Muslim husband.  The Erie County District Attorney described the husband as a "pretty vicious and remorseless bastard" (FOXNews.com- February 17th). "Whether he was motivated by some kind of interpretation of his religious or cultural views, we don't know." The irony of the young wife's murder and display of the body parts, reminiscent of a terrorist act, is that this Muslim couple founded Bridges TV in 2004 to counter anti-Islam stereotypes. In Toronto, a 16-year-old young woman of Pakistani descent, Aqsa Parvez, was strangled by her father in 2007 for refusing to wear the hijab. Last year, in Georgia, a father strangled his 25-year-old daughter with a bungee cord for wanting to end her arranged marriage. The murderer of two sisters in Texas – their father – is still at large; they were shot to death while attempting to reach a police dispatcher. Thousands of these killings are said to occur internationally, many under-reported and perpetrators unpunished, in countries ranging from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Bangladesh to Great Britain and Holland, where Muslims émigrés are plentiful. 
 
But aside from all the knowledge we have of horrific murders of Muslim women (the independent film, The Stoning of Soraya M currently in theaters, reminds us vividly of these atrocities), foremost we have Rifqa's own expressed concerns and fears that she will not last a week if returned to her father. Given reports of the earlier beatings, she has already been a victim. Let us pray that she escapes the dark fate of Elian Gonzalez and that the court scrutinizes her background with great care and diligence, including examining testimony by experts on Islamic law. If they do, I am convinced she will be permitted to stay in Florida and not returned to Ohio – to a family which has no choice, if they are to be faithful to Islam, but to force her to renounce her Christianity or to die. 
 
 FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Margaret Calhoun Hemenway spent fifteen years on Capitol Hill, in both the House and Senate, and five years as a White House appointee serving President Bush at both DoD and NASA.
   
 

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