I previously reported on the situation of Rifqa Bary, the 17 year old Sri Lankan Muslim who converted to Christianity. She ran away from her New Albany (suburb of Columbus) Ohio home and is living in Florida with a foster family. She says she fears for her life. My post has here.
As reported in the Columbus Dispatch, Sgt Jerry Cupps of the Columbus Police missing persons bureau discounted the girl's fear of death-for-apostasy and said the father had long known of the conversion and appeared to be a caring father.
Our laws generally favor parental rights to care for and control their children, subject to prohibitions on doing serious physical (and perhaps emotional) harm.
The Orlando Sentinel reports that on August 21, 2009, a Florida judge has delayed the return of the girl to her parents until the Florida Department of Law Enforcement can investigate to determine whether the home with the parents is safe. A further hearing is ordered for September 3, 2009.
These sorts of cases are incredibly difficult. It is certainly true that some Muslims believe that killing a child who converts to Christianity would be required to maintain the honor of the family. Some will not go that far, especially living in non-Muslim country where that is NOT the predominate belief in the country's culture. Obviously Ms.Bary believes her father to be in the former category (or she is an extraordinarly convincing liar -- see video).
The legal question is, "What is in the best interests of the child?" It seems to me that is the fear of death-for-apostasy is sufficiently credible, the safest thing for the child, who is only one year away from the age of majority, is to keep her in the foster home. If the fears are justified, the father now under the spotlight need not do the deed himself, but he can ship the daughter off to Sri Lanka and let relatives take care of business. But if the father is truly sincere in rejected the Islamic death penalty for apostasy, how sad for the family that the daughter can make up a credible story to escape whatever fate the teenager feels her family has for her.
Personally I would opt for the safe approach. But if I were the father, I would move all resources to rebuild the bridges with my daughter. Now, maybe if he converted as well....
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