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JISHOU, HUNAN — The Bary family of Columbus, Ohio, had one place setting empty last Thursday, because religious hysteria and rightwing busybodies have interfered with return of their runaway daughter to their care.

That’s the tale told by Shayan Elahi, the attorney for Fathima Rifqa Bary’s father, in today’s Orlando Sentinel.

Rifqa Bary ran away from her home at age 16, assisted by Christian pastors and Facebook friends who enabled her to take a bus to Orlando, Florida, where she stayed with another Christian pastor and his wife for nearly two weeks before anyone notified child welfare authorities — or her parents — of her location.

Fueled by unfounded allegations that Rifqa fled her home to avoid an “honor killing,” a complete “Save Rifqa Bary” movement has blossomed from whole cloth, led by a combination of Christian activists, Muslim-haters, and otherwise well-meaning folk who think they are saving a teenage girl from certain execution.

In any other situation, had a teenager been lured away from her home by friends she met on Facebook or while unescorted by her family, assisted in her flight to a different state and housed (illegally) for two weeks, her return home would have been swift and definitive.

But, because the parties involved are “Christians,” their interference in a family’s life somehow gets a free pass. As far as I know, no one has been charged with any crime in enabling Rifqa to run away. And official sources give no credibility to the idea that Rifqa’s Muslim parents or the family’s mosque will kill the girl because she has become a Christian.

Rifqa says they will, but only after spending considerable time with her Christian helpers-with-an-agenda. The “Save Rifqa” echo chamber has amplified the girl’s possibly coached allegation into a full blown crusade, labeling her parents (and every other Muslim in Ohio, if not the world) as wild-eyed extremists bent on taking over the United States of America and wiping all Christians off the map.

But newspaper accounts paint a picture of a fairly typical middle-class American family, who just happen to be Muslim (the current mortal enemy of Christendom). Rifqa started reading the Bible at age 13. Her parents knew it, and permitted it. They didn’t cut off her hands, or pluck out her eyes. She joined the cheerleading squad at school, short skirt and all, and her parents, instead of keeping her in a floor-length shroud, have her cheerleader photo displayed in their living room. Her brother drinks beer and parties. Her mosque appears to be as middle-of-the-road as a Reform synagogue or a Methodist church.

The Save Rifqa people turned the hearings in Orlando about her custody into a small media circus. The hearings in Columbus about her removal from foster care (after three months) drew a tiny rabble outside. The blogosphere drips with hatred of Islam and Muslims.

(Just read some of the comments under the Sentinel opinion piece. I especially like the ones decrying “honorary killings.”)

Is this What Jesus Would Do? Or would he condemn the Save Rifqa people as hypocrites?

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