Ex-Muslim Runs Away from Home, Fearing Honor Killing August 23, 2009

Ex-Muslim Runs Away from Home, Fearing Honor Killing

Fathima Rifqa Bary is the 17-year-old girl who converted from Islam to Christianity. She packed up her things and ran away to Florida because she feared an honor killing — her own family members killing her because of what she had done.

Her parents say they just want her back safely, but reports say that her mother said Fathima was “dead to her”. The girl also said her father threatened to kill her after learning she had been baptized.

Right now, Fathima is in Florida staying in a group home. The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian group that rarely is on the right side of the cases they take on, is defending her. And I hope they win. Though word is that she’ll probably end up back in her home state of Ohio with her family.

Even if her parents said things to her out of frustration and have no desire to actually see her dead, the fear for Muslim converts is very real. There are religious nuts out there who think what Fathima did is the worst kind of sin and her life is in danger, even if not from within her own family.

The father isn’t making a strong case for himself by saying a church/cult kidnapped her, considering she seems to have gone to Florida on her own will:

Here’s a scarier video — Fathima talking about her situation. She sounds like she knows exactly what she’s talking about. She knows what she’s up against. She doesn’t appear to be brainwashed in the least bit (unless you count the whole bit about Jesus).

She needs to be safe, even if that means the safety comes via a Christian church.

(Thanks to Larry and Richard for the links!)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • TJ

    Religion of Peace™

  • There’s plenty of examples of honor killings in muslim societies. I have no doubt that honor killing is a real danger for her now. Especially, now that the story has media coverage.

  • Valentin

    The question in the first video about if Islam call for killing her is quite stupid. First of all, the Qu’ran, even if stating somewhere that killing is bad, has a loophole where they say that if you kill someone who is not a believer, it might be the action of Allah through your hands, so you are safe and still going to heaven. And it does explicitly call for killing those who are ex-Muslim. But like Christians or Jews, Muslims do not always obey their book, even though they think they do. And the majority of Muslim would not kill in this situation. But putting question about Islam to know if she will be killed is stupid. People do things against their own faith. If he threatened her own daughter, she should be put under protection. Obviously!
    For the question about if she has been brainwashed. Yes. But like her parents are brainwashed by Islam. Where do you make difference between brainwashing and faith? These are just two words with different connotation but with identical meaning. The use is just subjective.

  • Erp

    I have mixed feelings. I have no doubt that the Christian Right will play this to the max, but, she could also be in serious danger. I also feel that this is a matter more for the Ohio courts than the Florida courts.

    Personally I wonder what their reaction would be if it were a 17 year old fleeing a conservative Christian family after converting to Islam (or revealing they were lesbian/gay and taking refuge with a same-sex couple).

  • And it does explicitly call for killing those who are ex-Muslim.

    The Koran doesn’t; the Hadith does. A minor distinction, but enough of one that a Muslim can say “the Koran doesn’t call for the murder of apostates” without lying.

  • It doesn’t make me happy to see a convert to christianity, but it’s outrageous to see a poor young girl fearing her own families to kill her. Christians can even shun their families, but don’t go to the extreme of killing them.

  • Steve

    FYI — DJ Grothe talked about Rifqa to Ayaan Hirsi Ali on a Point of Inquiry episode from the beginning of July. (Podcast just released a week or so ago) I was surprised to find out that she ran away back in June and we just started really hearing about it recently.

    The most disturbing part about this and honor killings in general is the worry that the family members may feel strongly enough about it to commit murder despite knowing they will be put away for life. There is just no way to know what they might do when nobody is looking. Here’s hoping their intelligence and innate moral sense overrides their beliefs.

  • All else being equal, if this girl fears that her family will harm her, she probably has good reason for that fear. That’s not the kind of belief that just materializes out of nowhere.

  • “Christians can even shun their families, but don’t go to the extreme of killing them.”

    Sure they do – mostly in the snake-handling smalltowns where the “cops” are too fat and drunk to investigate.

    And let’s not forget in the 1980’s, when Jerry Falwell, the “moral majority”, James Dobson and a few other loons running these “pro-family” groups nowadays were pushing the government that they hate so much to arrest and exterminate each and every gay person in the USA.

    They’re all peas in the same fucked-up pod, extreme Muslim or “christian”.

  • Richard P

    I think the saddest part of this story is how she traded one delusion for another.

    I wonder if Fathima will ever make the leap to wondering where this god of salvation is and why he doesn’t deliver her.

    I guess we can only watch for the final out come..
    Will allah prove more powerful than jesus?
    Will jesus be able to deliver her for prosecution. Will allah deliver death to the infadel..
    Stay tuned for next weeks episode of…… AS THE GODS WAR.

  • Geoff

    I know it’s a niggly point, but I wish we could stop using the phrase ‘honor killing’. There is no honor about men killing defenceless women.
    How about something like ‘cowardly murder’?

  • TJ

    Here’s hoping their intelligence and innate moral sense overrides their beliefs.

    This is religion we’re talking about here.

    Intelligence and innate moral sense destroys religion. That’s why we aren’t allowed to teach intelligence in school, only their dogma.

    I know it’s a niggly point, but I wish we could stop using the phrase ‘honor killing’. There is no honor about men killing defenceless women.
    How about something like ‘cowardly murder’?

    But that’s intolerant! We need to tolerate these evil people, remember?

  • valdemar

    This is a familiar story in Britain, where a charity called Karma Nirvana has been set up to help Muslims escape ‘honour’ violence. Trouble is, a desperate desire not to appear racist (ie make Muslims subject to the same laws as the rest of us) has hamstrung police, teachers and politicians. Several victims have been killed after calling for police protection. It’s still not taken seriously enough, but there are signs of progress.

  • Delphine

    In a very cold hearted sense, if she ends up being sent back, yes, she’ll likely be killed. The Judge’s character and ability to make decisions will be questioned. Her parents will likely go to jail, and she’ll pave the way for future ex-Muslims to escape to safety.

  • Claudia

    Though not as disturbing as the story, the comment threads on those two videos are chilling.

    Especially telling is the comments (some upvoted HUNDREDS of times) where she is receiving support but only because she is now a Christian. Now that she has the “right” imaginary super-daddy, she’s “one of us” and will be protected. Though I understand this to a degree (I can imagine we here would be even more supportive if she was under threat of death because of becoming an atheist), it makes me feel like, more than a person, to many she is a trophy in the fight between two religions.

  • Aj

    Given that the Christians she is involved with are all batshit insane, I mean really freaky Jesusfreaks, I’m skeptical because they are known for the propensity to lie through their fucking teeth. Perhaps it’s the attention of the news reporters, but she seems to be speaking from a script and acting very badly. I wonder if her family can demonstrate they knew about her change of religion. Also while she’s safe and sound if her words are true she really put her brother in the shit, fucking bitch.

    Apostasy does carry a death penalty according to plenty if not a majority of Muslim religious and political authorities. In many societies breaking from the cultural myths, taboos, or sexual practice has historically been met with public execution. These fears should be treated with due respect by legal authorities. Her family aren’t exactly going to admit on public broadcast that they’re planning on killing someone, I’m pretty sure that’s illegal.

  • Travis

    I appreciate this article, and your non-hostility towards others. I rarely see such a open, light hearted athiest these days lol. Aint that what ya’ll are s’posed to be?? I am a christian but this is real life where we all coincide, so it is improtant we find our common ground.. When it comes to good and bad I really think we see eye to eye on 99% of everythhing. At least in my version…

  • Erp

    There is also the problem of how does the family prove they aren’t planning to kill her if they aren’t? The family is from Sri Lanka where Islam isn’t exactly a political power or known for its extremism. The daughter went to a regular US school and was an honor student and cheerleader (and given cheerleading costumes this suggests the family aren’t that strict).

  • gmcfly

    “Global Revolution Church” does sound like a culty name. Listening to some of their sermons online, it is at the very least a *very* intense church.

    But nevertheless, better than being killed.

  • atomjack

    Hmmm…I wonder what the minor emancipation statutes look like in Ohio? I have a friend who emancipated himself from his abusive parents at age 16, at a time when the abuse wasn’t as reported. When I was a youngster, all kinds of abuse went unreported (very small town), and even if reported, the police usually turned the kid back over to their parents anyway.

  • Mike said,

    The Koran doesn’t; the Hadith does. A minor distinction, but enough of one that a Muslim can say “the Koran doesn’t call for the murder of apostates” without lying.

    Then what do you call this?

    They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them … Surah 4:89

  • This is very different from the similar stories I’ve seen run in the UK and Turkey. This one has a smell of BS about it. Honor killings exist but this family appears moderate and I think Fathima is playing it up a bit. I’m leaning more toward the ultimate rebellion scenario. She seemed to be overacting. (And I feel scummy for thinking that and hope I’m wrong)

  • Erp

    Is it better that her family wants to kill her or better that she is overacting? Personally I prefer the latter because it would mean no one is intending murder. However wishes aren’t facts.

    This needs to be investigated carefully and without assuming that because one side is Christian/Muslim they are lying/not lying.

    BTW Ohio apparently doesn’t emancipate minors (except those who marry or join the armed forces [and I think both require parental permission]).

    I also note that she may be a Sri Lankan citizen not US and not dual which may also tangle things.

  • Erik

    That headless torso next to her sure is keeping a strong grip on her arm

  • Ian

    Richard Bartholomew points out some holes in the story. It might be true, but it might also be that they’re doing a good job of manipulating prejudice against muslims.

  • sailor

    When kids want to get back at their parents, don’t they always know just the way that will piss them off the most.

  • ChameleonDave

    I must say that she appears to be acting. She is explaining quite calmly, and then hides her face to make it easier to pretend to cry. It looks very, very fake. Something fishy is going on in this cult.

    I know it’s a niggly point, but I wish we could stop using the phrase ‘honor killing’. There is no honor about men killing defenceless women.
    How about something like ‘cowardly murder’?

    Because this is more cowardly than other murders? You jibbering idiot.

  • Staceyjw

    Here’s an idea:
    Why not send her to a SECULAR, foster home, far away from both the church and her family? Both sides have made serious allegations against the other, so the only safe thing to do is remove her from BOTH parties. Limited, supervised, contact ONLY.

    This way she is safe physically and mentally. Then she can decide what she wants to do as an adult, away from both terror and drama.

    After all-
    She could have be fleeing imminent death. In Islamic tradition, when a member of a family “sins” in a (often)sexual/religious way, murder is used to “cleanse the families honor”. Scary stuff, for sure.

    She could have been indoctrinated by a cult like church, and her parents are rightly worried and scared for her. There are many xtian zealots who would see a scared young muslim girl, and exploit her situation for ideological/religious gain.

    Its ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry!


  • JL

    Yeah, I am suspicious here. Maybe she is telling the truth. But maybe she’s not. The people that she’s with now are extremists, and they are (from what I’ve read) hardcore Christian Zionists, who have every reason to encourage Islamophobia. Her claim that Muslim converts to Christianity in Sri Lanka are hospitalized doesn’t make sense – the large majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists (and there are almost as many Christians there as Muslims); why would the Buddhists persecute Muslim converts to Christianity?

    Obviously, the allegations should be taken seriously and investigated. But I am not convinced that she’s on the level.

  • “In a very cold hearted sense, if she ends up being sent back, yes, she’ll likely be killed.”

    How the f**k do you know that? How did we get to a situation of such extreme prejudice that people will just presume that the father is a murderer because he’s a Muslim?

    What I can see is a father who is choked up at the loss of his daughter and a cheerful preacher with a young girl snuggled up against him.

    1) The family knew that she was a Christian.
    2) The pasteur admits that she’s been Christian for several years.
    3) So, if they were going to kill her, why would they have waited this long?

    It seems more likely to me that the pasteur has convinced her that Muslims HAVE to kill converts to Christianity. She gives examples of honour killings from the media, but she gives no examples of threatening behaviour from her parents.

  • Aj


    1) The family knew that she was a Christian.

    How the **FUCK** do you know that? That’s not what the girl is claiming. She claimed she told her brother and that they kept it a secret from their parents, especially the father. You’re prejudging her as a lier, and the Muslim father as innocent, rather hypocritical. Perhaps you’re sexist, racist, and xenophobic.

  • sarah

    this girl is definitely wrong. she doesn’t deserve to be a Muslim. i wouldn’t even spit in her direction, and this is coming from a 16 year old Muslim girl who truly respects and admires her religion.

  • Bill

    How do you know that she went to Florida on her own? What if somebody helped her get down there, and the hitch-hiking to the bus station claim is a cover story made up to protect someone from prosecution.

    Considering that she is a minor, that would make this a kidnapping.

  • I know that this was almost four months ago, but it irks me that Robert Madewell left out the very next surah, which ends with:

    Had Allah willed He could have given them power over you so that assuredly they would have fought you. So, if they hold aloof from you and wage not war against you and offer you peace, Allah alloweth you no way against them.

    In other words, you can only kill an apostate who wages war against you.

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