Will religious runaway Rifqa Bary be killed if she's sent home to Ohio?
Bary is the 17-year-old girl who fled to Florida in July because she's terrified that her Muslim family has to murder her due to her conversion to Christianity.
Authorities in both states say there's no "credible" threat against her. Investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement say her fear is "subjective and speculative." Her parents say they don't want to hurt her and just want her back.
She's living with a foster family as a court in Orlando tries to decide what to do with her. The next hearing is Monday afternoon. Attorneys for her parents are expected to argue that the case should be shifted to Ohio.
This is a good time to pause for a bit and take another look at her Aug. 10 interview with local TV. It remains this ongoing story's primary source.
"I'm fighting for my life!" she said in her nearly seven-minute interview with Orlando's WFTV. "You guys don't understand!"
Let's understand then.
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"Imagine the honor in killing me," she said. "It's in the Koran."
It's not. Here's what is.
One verse: "If any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein."
Another verse: "If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them."
Those are parts of the two verses Robert Spencer cites to support his belief that Bary will be killed because Islam says she must be killed.
Spencer blogs at JihadWatch.org. He's written nine books, with titles like Stealth Jihad, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Two of them have been New York Times bestsellers. In Stealth Jihad, published last year, he writes of the coming "Islamic conquest of North America" and urges this country's schools to stop "the empty rhetoric of inclusion and multiculturalism."
Here are some other things the Koran says.
One verse: "Let there be no compulsion in religion."
Another verse: "Show kindness to parents, and to family."
The Koran, like many other holy texts, is long, complicated and at times contradictory, and over centuries different people have had and continue to have different interpretations.
Bary has committed apostasy. That means she was a Muslim and now she's not.
"The Koran condemns apostasy," said Jonathan Berkey, a professor of Islamic studies at Davidson College in North Carolina, "but the verses about seizing and slaying 'renegades' concerned enemies of the prophet Muhammad's state, people who posed a political or even military threat.
"For others," he said, "the Koran implies that apostasy is something that God will punish."
Not people. Not in this life.
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"They have to kill me," she said.
Let's acknowledge this right here: There's no way to know for sure if her parents, or anyone else for that matter, will kill her.
But this can be said with certainty: They don't have to.
This idea, though, comes from sharia, or Islamic law. There is one Koran but there is no single sharia. It comes from many sources, including the Koran, and is "more like a discussion by Muslim scholars concerning the duties a Muslim should perform," said Valerie Hoffman, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Illinois.
Most Muslim jurists say apostasy is punishable by death - but not all of them. It is "the heart of a burning debate among modern Muslims," said Sherman Jackson, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan.
"There are lots of liberal Muslims today who feel that there should never be any execution of people who convert from Islam to another religion," Hoffman said. "You can't say Islam says this or Islam says that."
Also important is the fact that sharia is law only to the extent that specific governments choose to enforce it as such. Some governments in the Muslim world do. Most don't. Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Its government does not.
"Sharia is just not applied very often, particularly in the modern world," Berkey said. "There are few places in the Muslim world where much at all of sharia is applied with the force of law."
Apostasy executions are rare.
An official at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom told the New York Times in 2006 that he knew of four: one in Sudan, in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia, in 1992.
In the case of Bary, which government would order her execution for apostasy - Ohio, Florida, the United States?
"The allegation that Muslim parents would be required to kill an apostate daughter is absurd," said Carl Ernst, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina, "particularly if there is no evidence to back this up besides the daughter's statement."
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"I don't know if you know about honor killings," she said.
Honor killings are real. The United Nations Population Fund says there could be as many as 5,000 a year worldwide.
Honor killings are usually when a man in a family kills a woman in that family because of some shame the man believes she brought on the family. It typically involves some sort of perceived sexual impropriety, anything from promiscuity to adultery to dating the wrong guy or dressing too "Western." Sometimes, women are killed after they're raped.
Honor killings happen mostly in the Muslim world. In the last couple of years, though, there was a double murder some called an honor killing in Texas, there was one in Georgia, there was another in upstate New York.
But honor killings and apostasy executions are not the same thing.
"This is a basic mistake of conflating two things," said Brett Wilson, a professor of Islamic studies at Macalester College in Minnesota.
Ernst, the professor from UNC, called honor killings "a local or tribal custom," having far more to do with culture than religion - "more or less equivalent," he wrote in an e-mail, "to the so-called 'unwritten law,' honored by judges in Texas at least through the 1950s, which considered it legitimate for a husband to kill his wife and her lover if he discovered them in a compromising situation."
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To believe absolutely that the girl from Ohio will be killed if she's sent home, you have to believe that there's no variation in the interpretation of Islam - no Sunni, no Shia, no Sufism - among the approximately billion and a half Muslims worldwide, stretching from Southeast Asia to Africa to the Middle East to Europe to Florida and Ohio. Saying all Muslims have exactly the same rigid and literal beliefs and act on those beliefs in exactly the same ways is like saying the same thing about Christians.
Times news researchers Shirl Kennedy and Will Short Gorham contributed to this report. Michael Kruse can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8751.