Five ex-Muslims who founded a group called Former Muslims United put out a public appeal Thursday to the U.S. government for protection, saying the lives of thousands of “apostates from Islam” are in peril.
Speaking at a Capitol Hill press conference, the Granada Hills, Calif., group cited the case of Fathima Rifqa Bary, a 17-year-old from Ohio who converted to Christianity four years ago. She fled to Florida this past summer in fears that her parents would murder her for “honor” reasons. Her father, the girl said in a court filing, had already threatened to kill her.
Fathima first stayed with a pastor and his wife, then ended up in protective custody with Florida’s Department of Children and Families. Currently, she is living with a foster family. Investigators in Florida and Ohio, where her parents live, have said they can’t find evidence to support her allegations. The girl’s fate will be determined at a court hearing in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 27.
Former Muslims United cited no U.S. deaths and could not come up with exact numbers of how many former Muslims reside in the United States or how many have been threatened.
Syrian-born Wafa Sultan, one of the five founders of the group, has received death threats, the group said, going on to predict that cases will increase and worsen as a generation of U.S.-native Muslims, born mostly to immigrant parents, reach adulthood.
“We are going to have a lot more Rifqa Barys in America because the kids are rebelling,” said Nonie Darwish, the Egyptian-born director of the group. “I know families in Los Angeles whose kids are not attending mosque and their parents are threatening them.
“How could no one believe this girl? The parents are under a lot of pressure from the Muslim community to do something about this kid,” she said, adding that “the tyranny of political correctness” is making Western nations “too appeasing toward the people who want to kill us.”
Islamic law mandates death for adult male apostates. Female apostates are imprisoned for life or sometimes killed. If one member of a married couple leaves Islam, the marriage is declared void and the apostate loses custody of any children.
There have been some well-known cases of threats to overseas apostates, specifically that of Abdul Rahman, 41, an Afghan convert to Christianity who was imprisoned on apostasy charges in 2006 and was to be put to death. After an international outcry, he was allowed to leave Afghanistan and was granted asylum by the Italian government.
Other founders of the group spoke Thursday of the skepticism they have encountered.
“There is a tendency to downplay the dangers of Shariah law and the creeping Islamization of the West,” said the Pakistani-born author Ibn Warraq, author of the 2003 book “Leaving Islam.”
“The left tends to be very critical of Christianity but not of Islam,” he added. “Islam gets away with it.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations did not return a call for comment Thursday.
On Wednesday, Former Muslims United delivered letters to Gerald Reynolds, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.
The letters asked both agencies to outline their plans to “protect and support former Muslims who, because of authoritative Shariah doctrine, are the targets of discrimination, intimidation, assault and the threat of execution.” They also asked for statistics and research on “civil rights abuses against former Muslims.”
A spokeswoman said the commission is reviewing the letter.
Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar said that “a top priority of this department is a return to robust civil rights enforcement and outreach in defending religious freedoms and other fundamental rights of all of our fellow citizens.”
Mrs. Darwish said she had reported personal threats to the FBI but that nothing was done.
“We in America are scared for our lives,” she said. “No other religion on earth demands the death of those who leave it - except the mafia. And at least you choose to enter the mafia. But you are born into Islam.”
The Former Muslims United announcement came on the eve of a large prayer gathering of Muslims that will take place at 1 p.m. Friday at the west front of the Capitol.
Others have responded to the prayer gathering, including TheCall, a Christian group based in Kansas City, Mo., which put out “an urgent call to Christian prayer” conference call late Thursday night. Participants were to include Family Research Council President Tony Perkins and National Day of Prayer Chairwoman Shirley Dobson.
“There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Muslim influence,” said Lou Engle, president of TheCall and the organizer of an Aug. 16, 2008, Christian rally that brought 50,000 youths to pray on the Mall in Washington.
“Our president has recently honored the Muslim holy days of prayer and fasting,” he wrote in a press release. “We advocate for understanding of this religion, but we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.”
Canon Julian Dobbs, leader of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America’s “Church and Islam Project,” said Thursday that the Muslim prayer initiative is “part of a well-defined strategy to Islamize American society and replace the Bible with the Koran, the cross with the Islamic crescent, and the church bells with the athan [Muslim call to prayer].”
Ben Conery contributed to this report.