I don't know how I almost missed this sad tale of anti-Muslim bigotry, fundamentalist Christian craziness, and political opportunism from the Religious Right.
Rafiq Bary is a 17 year old girl from a Muslim family. About four years ago, she converted to Christianity. A few months ago, her father bought her a laptop and she started spending all of her time on Facebook; sometime around here -- I would suspect under the influence of some wacky fundamentalist Christians -- she became convinced that her father was going to do her in in an "honor killing." (Because, you know, I always spend a lot of money on an expensive gift for someone before I do them it. And I like to economically support someone, house and feed them, for several years after they've done the thing that motivates me to kill them, before I do the deed.)
She ran away, and someone -- I would suspect the same wacky fundamentalist Christians -- bought her a bus ticket from her home in Ohio to Florida. There, she lived for two weeks with wacky fundamentalist Christians Blake and Beverly Lorenz, from the Global Revolution Church, whom she had gotten to know through a Facebook prayer group.
She being a minor and all (and one suffering from delusions induced by the craziness of others), the usual course of the law would be to send her back to her parents. But, you know: those people are Muslims. And so:
Bary's case has, in recent weeks, become a huge deal for the Religious Right and has been getting lots of coverage from places like Fox News, WorldNetDaily, OneNewsNow, and Human Events and has also been championed by several Religious Right groups like Concerned Women for America, the Traditional Values Coalition and the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.
It's likewise been a huge deal on right-wing blogs, and some bloggers even showed up outside of the hearing last week:
Jamal Jivanjee, the Ohio pastor, compared Rifqa Bary to Anne Frank, the Jewish girl who was killed by Nazis in World War II and whose diary became what many consider one of the most important books of the 20th century.
Robert Spencer, who writes on a blog called Jihad Watch, told reporters Islam was here to take over America. Pam Geller of the Atlas Shrugs blog dismissed the results of the Franklin County investigation by saying things were "corrupt in Ohio."
"Forget your political correctness!" she said.
But the driving force behind this entire spectacle seems to be John Stemberger, who stepped in to represent Bary and just so happens to be the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council, which is a state affiliate of Focus on the Family. He was also deeply involved in passing Florida's anti-gay marriage amendment last November.
Once he got involved, he started leveling all sorts of wild accusations, claiming that if Bary were sent back to her parents she'd be murdered and alleging that the mosque her parents attend is a terrorist hotbed and throwing around allegations of sexual and physical abuse. He even publicly revealed Bary's parent's address in Ohio.
The authorities in Ohio conducted an investigation and found there was no reason to suspect that such allegations were true and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted its own investigation and delivered it to court last week ahead of a scheduled hearing on Bary's situation. But suddenly Stemberger asked the judge to seal the report so that nobody in the press or the public could see it. Though those involved has been barred from discussing the report's findings, Bary's parent's attorney stated that it came back "very favorable" and contained "no evidence whatsoever" of alleged abuse or threats of death made by the girl's parents. The judge ordered the FDLE's investigation into allegations against her parents was sealed for ten days and ordered Bary and her parents to seek the mediation within 30 days, scheduling another hearing for September 29 if the family is not able to resolve the conflict.
Whatever happens regarding Bary's status, it seems clear that those claiming to represent her interests will continue to utilize a strategy that hinges largely on transforming the story of a runaway girl into a full-blown war between Christianity and Islam:
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch. He was in Orlando to take part in a news conference supporting the girl's contention that she would be at grave risk if returned to her family.
"Her testimony is entirely credible. There is indeed a death penalty in Islam for those who leave Islam. Her father attended a mosque that is very devout. It's not the least unbelievable that with the death penalty for apostasy existing, this would put this girl at risk," he notes.
I wonder if Spencer would be in favor of taking a Wiccan teenager away from the (non-abusive) Christian parents, since there is a Biblical death penalty for her religion? ("Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." -- Exodus 22:18, KJV)