Fathima Rifqa Bary Custody Case Becomes Anti-Muslim Circus

The Fathima Rifqa Bary circus in Florida is now shaping up in the tradition of American legal disputes that manage to encapsulate the state of the country at a particular moment. An electric photo essay on the Orlando Sentinal website by Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda parades archetypal tub-thumping attention-grabbers: there’s Alan Kornman of ACT for America waving around a copy of Reliance of the Traveller, a Fourteenth Century manual of Islamic jurisprudence, and pointing out a verse that prescribes death for apostates; meanwhile, Ed and Sandra Warmoth from the “Maccabean Resistance” harangue passersby with placards reading “Know Your Enemy, Know Your Season, Know Your G-d” (the Warmouths are actually Christians, but like an increasingly large swathe of American evangelicals, they prefer to identify vicariously with Jewish cultural expressions and militaristic Zionism than with the historic priorities of Christianity); while Tom Trento of the Florida Security Council gives a press conference. We also see Bary herself poring over a Bible in court; her tearful mother, and the father – a mild looking Westernized Sri Lankan in a suit who, we are to believe, would rather kill his daughter and face the consequences than live with the shame of a daughter who has rejected her Muslim heritage to become a Christian.

Meanwhile, Bary’s attorney, a conservative activist named John Stemberger, is alleging that her family have links to Al Qaeda through their local mosque in Ohio, and that Bary is the victim of “mental, physical and sexual abuse”. Stemberger has also publicised Bary’s parents’ home address; the St. Petersburg Times has a bit of background (link added):

Stemberger is the president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council. Orlando magazine last month called him one of the 50 most powerful people in the city. He’s a leader in Florida’s anti-gay marriage movement and doesn’t believe in teaching evolution “as scientific fact.”

Also part of the story is Governor Charlie Crist, who likes to pander to the  Christian Right. He’s in no mood to appeal for a bit of calm:

I am grateful to Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson for his decision to grant Fathima Rifqa Bary the right to remain in Florida.

The first and only priority of my administration is the safety and wellbeing of this child.

I am grateful for the good work of Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon and my General Counsel, Rob Wheeler, for personally advocating the administration’s position by attending today’s hearing.

We will continue to fight to protect Rifqa’s safety and wellbeing as we move forward.

Curiously, one person is absent from the unfolding drama: Blake Lorenz, the pastor of the neo-Pentecostal Global Revolution Church to which Bary fled after communicating with the church on Facebook. Lorenz is apparently on holiday.

WorldNetDaily has a round-up of exultant conservative punditry on the subject:

[Pamela] Geller said the teen’s case “is a public relations nightmare for Islamist groups, as her plea validates everything that scholars such as Ibn Warraq, Robert Spencer, Dr. Andrew Bostom, Wafa Sultan, etc., have written and said.”

Sultan, a Syrian-born psychiatrist, human rights activist and author, wrote on JihadWatch.org that the case “highlights the danger of creeping jihad in the Western world.”

Dr. Phyllis Chesler, author of “Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?” told Fox News Bary’s life will be in danger if she is forced to return to her parents.

“Anyone who converts from Islam is considered an apostate, and apostasy is a capital crime,” she said. “If she is returned to her family, if she is lucky, they will isolate her, beat her, threaten her, and if she is not ‘presuaded’ to return to Islam, they will kill her. They have no choice.”

And so on. Geller claims that she has “been talking to someone who is very close to Rifqa Bary”, who alleges that Bary was regularly beaten.

Also on the bandwagon is W.L. Cati ( whom I blogged here), who explains that

“As far as Muslims are concerned, she should have the death penalty for converting to Christianity…And so even though she is here and appears to be safe, thank God the judge made a good decision as far as her behalf, but what is Islam going to do?”

Cati says she believes the girl is telling the truth based on her own experience of having been married to a Muslim.

WorldNetDaily also notes a news story from Pakistan, which, without any evidence, accuses Bary of promiscuous behaviour and of “conjur[ing] up a story of conversion to Christianity” in the face of parental discipline. WND also carries a photo (from before her flight to Florida) of Bary posing cheerfully with a black American boy of around the same age as her, although the significance of this is unclear.

As I noted in my previous blog entry on this subject, Bary has a strange understanding of what an “honour killing” actually is; she claims it would be a “great honour” for her parents to kill her – but honour killing  (which is rare in Sri Lanka anyway) is about restoring honour which is perceived to have been lost; it’s not about gaining extra merit, as if it were some kind of human sacrifice. Where did she get that idea from? And the formal death penalty for apostasy is a different matter again, with a variety of Islamic opinions about whether it is applicable or not, and if so who has the authority to carry it out. I have no idea what kind of a man Bary’s father is, but it is foolish to claim that a verse from Reliance of the Traveller proves that a Muslim father must kill his daughter, regardless of any paternal feeling and heedless of both the law (in either the USA or Sri Lanka) and of his own imprisonment (and in Ohio, execution) which would invariably follow.

White House Santeria Rumour Created by Conservative Blogger

Much fun at Wonkette after a Townhall blogger named Kristen Atkinson posted a story claiming that a friend of Michelle Obama had revealed that Michelle’s mother was practising Santeria, a form of religion involving magical practices, in the White House. Atkinson’s whole blog has been removed (anyone can start a Townhall blog, by the way), but the story has been reposted elsewhere (e.g. here) and the author has rebuked Wonkette for making mocking comments:

Do you really, truly, seriously think it is OK for a president to use a forged birth certificate? Do you actually believe it is appropriate for a man who was raised a Muslim to pretend he is a Christian and go to a church for 20 years with an anti-American preacher? Do you really want a president who was brainwashed by communists since he was a child, up through university, to hate America to be our president? Do you think that it is fine if a family member of the president defiles the White House with voodoo? Don’t you know what fate could befall our nation as a result of allowing Satanic forces to gather over the White House?

Where will such things end? Before long, we’ll be reading about the President’s wife holding séances in the White House. Or maybe presidential appointments being approved by the First Lady’s astrologer.

In the lead up to the 2008 election, a neo-Pentecostal email rumour warned that Obama’s Kenyan grandmother was killing chickens in occult rituals “to make [John McCain] look confused and like an idiot”.

Jim Barfield’s Israel Adventure Continues: “Hebrew Roots” Teacher Sets Up Meeting with Archaeologist

A couple of times now I’ve blogged on Jim Barfield, the Oklahoman former fire investigator who claims to have worked out the location of an amazing stash of treasure rescued from Israel’s First Temple and buried in the Judaean Desert. Barfield believes he has divined this information from study of the Copper Scroll, a document found with the Dead Sea Scrolls, although he’s not giving away the secret. Barfield managed to get a hearing from some credulous state senators, and he accompanied an Israeli expedition, although that does not appear to have ended well. However, the quest continues, as Barfield explains on the blog of the Jerusalem Connection, a particularly hardline Christian Zionist outfit:

I’ve been in Israel the last few weeks contacting archeologists and people of influence to try and determine what is holding up the excavation and maybe some clues as to what is going on.

Such as:

For those of you that keep up with Avi [Ben Mordechai], I spent several hours with him going over my research and we actually went to one of the sites to show him how amazingly accurate the Copper Scroll is.  By the end of the day he and his wife were convinced.  So much so, that he made arrangements for me to meet with a very kind gentleman by the name of Dr. Hanan Eshel. 

That’s an interesting connection. Ben Mordechai runs “Millennium 7000 Communications”, a “Hebrew Roots” outfit which rejects the Christian tradition (such as the idea of the Trinity) while accepting “Yeshua” as the Messiah (this is too strange to be called “Messianic Judaism”). From his website:

The Two Houses of Israel-“Ephraim” and “Judah,” as taught in Ezekiel 37, is a valid teaching. “Gentiles” that wish to join themselves to the corporate body of Israel are to be welcomed in, but they must agree to observe the commandments of the Holy Written Torah in order to connect to the blessings and to the promised inheritance that belongs to all Israel through the Messiah. Gentiles who say that they are Israel but do not believe that they have to keep and do the Torah commandments that were given to the people of Israel are stealing from YHWH, taking His blessings without the responsibilities of those blessings.

Ben Mordechai is apparently an enthusiast of Kabbalah, and he sees divine messages in natural and political phenomena. For example, he interprets the moon astrologically:

For centuries, scholars have attempted to ascertain the meaning of this prophecy. Jewish tradition and beliefs may help us explain this passage. In 1996, Israel celebrated the 3,000th year anniversary of Jerusalem – from King David’s conquest in 1004 B.C. to A.D. 1996

On Passover, April 3, 1996, a full lunar eclipse appeared over Jerusalem. A photograph of this eclipse appeared in the Jerusalem Post with the caption, “The Moon of Blood.” When a full lunar eclipse appears, the moon takes on a reddish, almost bloody appearance. On September 26 of the same year, a second lunar eclipse created a blood-like image and was visible in Jerusalem on the eve of the Feast of Tabernacles. A third lunar eclipse (90%) happened six months later during PURIM, the celebration to remember how the famed Jewish Queen Esther defeated the wicked plans of Haman.

Thus, THREE lunar eclipses occurring within one year on or near three Jewish celebration days is almost unheard of. These three “blood moons,” caused tremendous excitement and anxiety among rabbis in Israel, according to the same article. A blood moon, which appeared twice the same year and fell on the first and last feast of Israel, indicated to them this was a cosmic sign from God of impending trouble in Israel. The ancient belief was that a blood moon (lunar eclipse) could symbolize BLOODSHED and WAR.

Since 1996, thousands of Israelis have died in their own land from the suicide attacks of Islamic radicals. Just four years after these events in 2000 the Palestinian Authority launched its most recent infitiada or “uprising” against Israel at the hands of the now deceased Yasser Arafat. From a Hebraic understanding, the signs of a sackcloth sun and blood moon can refer to a full solar and lunar eclipse. According to Scriptures, this will be one form of cosmic activity prior to the coming Day of the Lord and the future Tribulation.

This kind of thing appeals to some American Christian fundamentalists; the scholarly realisation that to understand Jesus and the New Testament properly one ought to know about the First Century Jewish context is corrupted into the idea that someone peddling supposed mystical secrets from the Jewish tradition somehow provides special esoteric insight into spiritual reality. His worldview also includes “New World Order” paranoia:

…we are a rebellious nation that refuses to repent and obey the written Torah of Moshe. As a result, we must bear our punishment as we are being led down a path that requires us to step into line, serve the laws of our masters (Ezekiel 20:23-25), and obey the NWO bosses and their plans for global control of the world and its populations…we expect a bodily implantation law to be passed in the future (probably in the very near future). Afterall, Israel is a lawless country and lawlessness demands control and we know from Deuteronomy Chapter 28:15-68 that YHWH, the Eternal One of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) is going to use the nations that surround us and use the system that this nation so loves, to control us. But in the end, we KNOW who is Really in Control!

By contrast to all this, Hanan Eshel is a respected Israeli archaeologist of international standing. It’s remarkable that such a fringe figure as Ben Mordechai would be in a position to arrange for him to spend time chatting to a delusional Oklahoman fire investigator.

Barfield also had a meeting with Gershon Salomon, a Jewish “Third Temple” obsessionist who is popular with Christian Zionists, and with Vendyl Jones, with whom he has a natural kinship. Jones is another pseudo-archaeologist, and he provides lazy hacks with easy copy once every few years with dramatic announcements of being “on the verge” of discovering the Ark of the Covenant. Jones is an ex-Christian “Noachide”, and he is associated with the right-wing “Sanhedrin” that has also excited Christian Zionists (the Sanhedrin recently held a bizarre friendly meeting with the Turkish Islamist Adnan Oktar). With both these characters, there’s more chance of Lucy actually letting Charlie Brown kick that ball than that they will actually deliver on their grandiose promises.

In the past Ben Mordechai has associated with Moshe Koniuchowsky, whom I blogged on here.