Friday, August 28, 2009

Stand With Rifqa Bary

Rifqa Bary is an Ohio teenager who recently fled to Florida claiming that her father seeks to murder her in an “honor killing.” While the media seeks to report the matter as a he said, she said story, there are some very disturbing details that back up her story.

For starters, Rifqa’s parents are members of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center. The Center was home to resident scholar Salah Sultan, who calls himself a ‘friend and pupil’ of avowed terror supporter and advocate of suicide bombings Yusuf Qaradawi.

Qaradawi is designated by the United States as a ‘Specially Designated Global Terrorist.’ Sultan most recently attended an event honoring Qaradawi where the two of them shared the stage with Khaled Mashaal, the head of Hamas. Sultan has also attended a Hamas rally and has publicly blamed the United States for the 9/11 attacks.

It is deeply troubling that the Noor Center would choose this man as a resident scholar. The Noor Center has also hosted Hassan Mohamud, another advocate of terror. That is part of what makes this situation unique. Other facts relate more specifically to the case of Bary and her parents.

Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs rightly points out that Rifqa posted a message about her Christian beliefs on MySpace over two years ago. Geller’s report that her father officially dissolved his successful jewelry business days after her disappearance, as well as reports of a previous instance of bruising add to the suspicious nature of this case and force all caring people to, at the very least, err on the side of caution.

So what can we do? We can advocate for two simple changes to the law that would help Rifqa and other teens in clearly dangerous situations while not affecting cases in which there is no significant or immediate provable cause for concern.

Florida law, as laid out in Section 743.015 of the Florida Statutes, currently allows for emancipation petitions to be filed by a parent of a minor, 16 years of age or older. When both parents have not signed the petition, notice is given to the other parent informing them of the filing.

While many states allow minors to file their own petitions, after which a detailed emancipation hearing is held, Florida is correct in not allowing most minors to initiate the process. In so doing, the State of Florida upholds the rightful place of parents and also prevents the courts from being clogged up with frivolous petition filings.

But when a child no longer lives with their parents, waiting for a guardian ad litem to be appointed to initiate the process clogs up the very court system the statutes were designed to relieve. Moreover, restricting a 16 year old child’s ability to file, when both parents no longer play a vital role in the child’s upbringing, ends up being a fairness issue. It makes sense that parents who have abdicated their responsibilities and who no longer raise their child should not be turned to as the sole initiators of a petition on the child’s behalf.

There is a second needed change to the law as well. A second proposal should assert Florida’s jurisdiction in custody hearings in cases where a minor had fled to Florida to escape a parent with provable ties to an organization that has promoted violence within the past ten years. The definition of such an organization would be based on one or more of its leaders advocating violence or claiming to be a follower of or in joint cause with a known advocate of violent acts.

Some contend that no changes to the law are necessary. In doing so, they fail to recognize that legal experts were divided as to how the judge would side with regard to jurisdiction in the most recent case of Rifqa Bary, precisely because the law is unclear. A girl’s life hang in the balance and it is unfathomable that other children may face similar circumstances due to a lack of clarity in the law.

The cost of inaction far outweighs the cost of making these necessary changes to the law. These two proposals I have proposed have no bearing on well over 90% of cases, and are purposely limited in scope, but they make a world of difference to the children who need them most.

Lastly, this case is a human rights issue. All concerned people need to take part in safeguarding teens from terror.

No comments: