Jewish World Review August 24, 2009 / 4 Elul 5769
Judge: Muslim teen who converted to Christianity stays in Florida for now
By Rene Stutzman
All five were in court Friday — her father in a business suit and her mother in a long dress with her head covered by a scarf. Through their lawyers, her parents asked that she be sent back to
But Rifqa's lawyer told the judge that's not what she wants. She wants to stay here with her foster family until she turns 18 next August, said attorney
She loves Jesus, she told the judge, and wants to be free to worship without fear of being beaten and killed.
She ran away last month, she said earlier, because her father had threatened to kill her for converting to Christianity.
On Friday, her father,
Stemberger told the judge Rifqa's father wasn't the real threat. The threat is from radical Muslims in
Before the hearing, Rifqa and her lawyers met with
He sat through the 50-minute hearing next to Gov.
"I have one concern. The governor has one concern," Sheldon said afterward. "That's the safety of the child."
Sheldon and Wheeler, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, demonstrated the extraordinary amount of attention the case has drawn. It has prompted a flood of support for the girl and a backlash against Islam.
More than 400 people have sent e-mails to Crist demanding that he save the girl from what some describe as certain death. Crist has made no public statement — but Friday other politicians began to weigh in.
Florida House Majority Leader
Rifqa activists held a small demonstration at the
And that's what the state of
For now, Rifqa will stay in the home of a Christian foster family and be home schooled while FDLE investigates any credible threats.
Sheldon said that investigation began Thursday. It should take about two weeks, Cole-Palmer said.
The judge ordered the teen back to court
Rifqa sat quietly through the proceeding, at times reading from a Bible.
In a voice so small that it was, at times, difficult to hear, she told the judge she has been a Christian for four years and longs to practice her faith openly.
But she also said this, "I love my family. I love them so much."
There was little emotion during the hearing. The one exception was the girl's mother,
When the judge asked if she had anything to say, she began strongly but then got choked up.
"I love my daughter. I need my daughter back," she said. "I have two sons and only one daughter. I need my daughter back."
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