By Chelsea Schilling
Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17 (Facebook photo)
A judge in Florida has determined arguments over a young Christian who ran away from her Muslim parents in Ohio when her father allegedly threatened her life will continue in Florida, and she will not be returned immediately as her parents wished.
Fathima Rifqa Bary, 17, an honor student and cheerleader, was raised in a Muslim family in Columbus, Ohio. She became a Christian four years ago as a result of her interactions with children at school.
But Bary, a native of Sri Lanka, hitchhiked to a bus station and ran away from home July 19 because she says her family will murder her in what is known as an "honor killing." In Islamic tradition, an honor killing is the killing of a person believed to have brought dishonor upon his or her family.
Bary sought refuge with a church group in Florida but has been in state foster care pending the hearing today. The judge speculated mediation might work, but there are expected to be no major developments immediately.
John Stemberg, an attorney representing the teen, said, "What occurred today was an amazing victory for Rifqa and an amazing victory for religious liberty and freedom in America.
"The court is going to allow at least for the time period, for Rifqa to stay in Florida and not be returned to her home in Ohio," he said.
In the Columbus area, where she lived, "There is a densely populated group of Muslims with connections with radical Islam and al-Qaida," he said.
"She made a statement in open court that she loved her parents very dearly, but she also feared for her life. She did not want to go home.
The judge did the right thing, acted in the best interests of my client," he continued. "She was shaking but she was very honest, and her statement was from her heart. She professed her faith in Christ."
"SHE WILL NOT BE SENT TO OHIO! Praise G-d," wrote blogger Pamela Geller, who has followed the case on her AtlasShrugs site. "At least not for now." Geller had dispatched sources that were inside the courtroom this afternoon.