Institutional Islamophobia and the Politics of a Minor's Choice

The case of Rifqa Bary 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.
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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 shamelessly.

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 to 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 O.K.," Mr. Bary told media and law enforcement.

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 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 the 'who-is-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 would take generations to clean.

To these political predators, facts are elastic variables; they are inflated when they are available to support their cause and are conveniently fabricated 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 others.

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 Shariah (Islamic law) that promotes the killing of an apostate on trial, and to wage a smear campaign on Noor Islamic and Cultural Center (NICC) in the 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 smoke screen to cover the real issues: whether a minor has a choice, and whether a non-family adult could hide a minor.

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 that "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 NICC. And "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 being in agreement with previous investigations done in Ohio. Their report was turned 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 to be sealed -- evidence that could very well have vindicated 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 lawsuits.

In this all too familiar circus, I cannot help but wonder: what if a non-Muslim minor was recruited through cyberspace 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!

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