Ever since Rifqa Bary ran away from her home in Columbus, Ohio in early August, the ex-Muslim’s story of an alleged imminent honor killing at the hands of her parents for her conversion to Christianity has galvanized the Right in a way reminiscent of the Terry Schiavo case. Short on facts but big on opportunism, the Right sought to exploit Schiavo and the issue for political gain and to push a pro-life agenda.
One of those crusaders is her attorney, John Stemberger, a “pro-family activist” and president of the Florida Family Policy Council that once authored a disinformational “factsheet” called “The Terri Schiavo Controversy – Facts, Myths and Christian Perspectives.” Stemberger is also a member of the Arlington Group and the Council for National Policy.
He also has racist tendencies. In 1999 Stemberger filed a lawsuit against Dollar Rent-A-Car “that characterized the Irish as hopelessly tethered to pubs and pints and unfit to drive the highways of America,” according to the Associated Press. He later apologized for that incident.
Another crusader is Pam Gellar, proprietor of the Atlas Shrugs blog and associate of Robert Spencer, who has authored books with titles like “Religion of Peace?: Why Christianity Is and Islam Isn’t.” Spencer gave the keynote address at “Counter Jihad Brussels 2007” that was attended by far right groups like the Belgian Vlaams Belang and Sverigedemokraterna, or the Sweden Democrats, both of which have links to neo-Nazis.
There are more – Tom Trento, head of the Florida Security Council, who distributed thousands of DVD copies of the movie Obsession at both the Democratic and Republican Party conventions and an admitted Christian Zionist. The pastor Bary ran to – Blake Lorenz – was, until recently, associated with an outfit called Global Revolution Church.
To get an idea what GRC is all about, one only need to look at sermons like “This World Before The Trumpet Sounds” posted on its website and links to the Ezekiel Project by Paul Holdren in Rochester Hills, which is described on his website as “the audio companion to the book ”The Wedding of Purity and Power.'” The book apparently contains “timeless truths” given by Old Testament prophets that “can be directly applied to America.”
What emerges from the save Rifqa Bary campaign isn’t an innocent attempt to save an innocent girl, but a far right campaign of deception and manipulation for the purposes of demonizing Islam and Muslims, and advancing a reactionary agenda.
What this agenda is can best be summed up by a post placed on the rifqabary.com site by the Orlando House of Prayer:
“We must pray that God would restrain the spiritual powers behind Islam and grant us the great awakening that we desperately need for America.” Or, as Pastor Lorenz told Time magazine:
“These are the last days; these are the end times,” he said, “and this conflict between Islam and Christianity is going to grow greater. This conflict between good and evil is going to grow greater.”
But perhaps the most damning indictment of this big lie comes from Bary’s mouth.
In a video posted on rifqabary.com, Bary herself gives her testimonial on her conversion in the House of Prayer run by Brian Williams — filmed before she ran away — where she recounts how she found Jesus.
In it, she describes the consequences of her conversion to fundamentalist Christianity she expected from her family.
“The consequences are really harsh,” she said; a little later she reiterates that “the consequences would be great.” What those consequences are she doesn’t say, except in the following passage:
“I was risking everything, like if my parents found out … I was 13 years old and I would not have a home.”
If she felt her life was in danger, why wouldn’t she say so to her new friends — especially when it’s obvious that throughout her “testimony” she’s clearly trying to impress the people videotaping her.
“You know what the crazy thing is?” she remarks. “For 150 generations, no one in my family has known Jesus – I’m the first one !” At that point, Williams and an unidentified woman are heard saying “wow,” as Bary repeats her sentence, “I’m the first one!” It’s the classic teenage maneuver – to fit in.
There are other indications that she may not be telling the truth. Bary signed an affidavit that claimed her parents forced her to attend youth meetings “every Saturday” at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center. Yet the NICC’s records show she only attended three classes.
The biggest indictment seems to come from law enforcement itself. According to Newsweek, two investigations by Ohio authorities and one by Florida “have found no reason to believe that her allegations are true or her life is imperiled.”
Bary’s lies are compounded by the lies of her supporters. Pam Gellar described the Bary’s attorney Shayan Elahi in her blog as an Islamist and that during a court hearing, he moved “back and forth across the courtroom like a caged panther.” Proof for Elahi’s “Islamism” was a link on her blog to an op-ed piece he wrote where he “clearly labels himself a Muslim American.” Yet in it, he argues the exact opposite:
“As Muslim Americans, we live in modern days within secular societies who see the role of religion a little differently then it was seen in the 7th century,” he wrote, adding that secular government and Islamic observance “are not mutually exclusive.”
Gellar also contradicts herself. In a Sept. 14 post, she accuses Newsweek of conflating the two concepts of honor killing and killing apostates, of which Rifqa Bary allegedly escaped from the latter.
Yet in an August 23rd post called “Rifqa Bary’s Parents Allegedly Lied in Court,” Gellar referred to what Bary supposededly escaped from as an honor killing three times! There are also three titles of posts where she used “honor killing” in reference to Bary’s case, including “Clueless Cops Doubt Rifqa Bary’s Story: Aiding an Honor Killing,” from August 12, the day this story first surfaced.
I hope in my heart that Rifqa Bary isn’t killed for her conversion and that her parents had no intention of killing her. Regardless of whether that’s true, however, one thing this case has proved is the anti-Muslim movement’s willingness to exploit a child in order to get Americans to hate Muslims.
And that’s as bad as killing her.