Dad Says Runaway Daughter Is Brainwashed By Cult

Fathima Bary Says She Ran Away To Orlando To Escape Father

WESH TV News, Florida/August 13, 2009

Orlando, Florida. - A teenager said she ran to Orlando to save her life, but her father said she's being brainwashed by a cult.

The 17-year-old girl said it's a case of life or death, but the decision may not be hers to make.

Fathima Bary converted to Christianity and said her Muslim father threatened to kill her for dishonoring the family. Her father is on the defense, while the Islamic Society of Central Florida said its faith doesn't condone murder and wonders if the religious runaway is nothing more than a troubled teen.

"It's completely false," said father Mohamed Bary. "Honestly, it's not my daughter who is speaking."

Mohamed Bary said he denies he ever threatened to kill his 17-year-old daughter for turning her back on the family's Muslim faith by becoming a Christian. He said he believes the Ohio girl fled to Florida last month after being brainwashed by the pastor of Global Revolution Church of Orlando, who she met on Facebook.

"This is a cult group who kidnapped my daughter and took her away," Mohamed Bary said.

The Rev. Blake Lorenz spoke with WESH 2 News earlier this week.

"She's just afraid for life," he said.

He's now out of the country on vacation, but by phone he said he didn't coerce Fathima Bary to change faiths.

"She has been a Christian for four years, long before we ever met her," he said.

Fathima Bary is in protective custody in Central Florida, but Lorenz said he believes she won't be safe if the court returns the religious runaway to her family. He said former Muslim followers call it an "honor killing."

"It says if you leave the Muslim faith and don't come back within a couple days you are to be killed," Lorenz said. "They showed me that in the Koran."

"There's no such thing as honor killing in the Koran," said Islamic Society of Central Florida President Imam Muhammad Musri.

Musri said, like Christians, Muslims believe killing someone is murder. He said, while there are extremists in every religion, he hopes Fathima Bary isn't hiding behind faith to find freedom.

"Is she a rebel teenager running away from home, or is she really in danger?" Musri said.

That's the question that the Department of Children and Families is asking. There's another custody hearing for Fathima Bary next Friday.

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