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Local Mosque Says No Ties To Extremists; Father of Runaway Wants Daughter Back

A Westerville teenager recently ran away to Florida because she fears for her life. The girl converted to Christianity from Islam. She said her family will kill her if she returns. The mosque that the teen sometimes attended with her family opened its doors to the media Wednesday after it came under fire by community members and religious groups.

"I'm fighting for my life," 17-year-old Rifqa Bary said.

Bary took a bus to Orlando in July to meet the leaders of a Christian church she became acquainted with on the Internet. Rifqa was a Muslim, but now she says she's a Christian - an act Rifqa said is unforgivable by the Islam faith and her family.

"You guys don't understand that community. I will die within a week," she said.

Rifqa currently is in foster care in Florida. A judge will decide if her case will be handled there or in Ohio. The hearing is set for today. Rifqa said she wants to stay in Orlando.

"You guys talk about religious freedom? No. I don't have that. I want to be here. And I want to worship Jesus freely. That's what I want. I don't want to die," Rifqa said.

"I never threatened to kill her. No, not at all," Mohamed Bary said.

Mohamed is her father. While he saids he would rather his daughter practice Islam he said he's okay with her being a Christian. And Mohamed thinks the people Rifqa met online are manipulating her.

"She is taught to say this. They are telling her, Look, they know you are a Christian. This is what will happen to you,'" Mohamed said. The Barys sometimes attend mosque at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin. Adnan Mirza speaks for the center. He said it has come under fire since Rifqa ran away.

"Their pinning this not just on the family, but saying it's a community effort. That this is what Islam teaches, that this is what the community practices. And, you know, again, that couldn't be farther from the truth," Mirza said.

In an effort to dispel some of the myths about Islam the center opened its doors to the media yesterday. Mirza said the most common misconception of the faith is that it teaches violence.

"It couldn't be farther from the truth. It's a peaceful, it's a just religion. It promotes peace and harmony, not only just amongst ourselves, but amongst various faiths," he said.

Asma Mobin-Uddin is a member of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center outreach committee. She called Rifqa a troubled teen who is misinformed. Mobin-Uddin said the Qur'an does not teach honor killings.

"Islam really says that God judges you and accepts what is in your heart. So it absolutely says that there needs to be freedom of conscience and freedom of religion," Mobin-Uddin said.

Despite the circumstances, Mirza sees a silver lining.

"This situation will ultimately result in an opportunity for people to learn more about Islam and more about their neighbor. And again we're just trying to take this difficult situation and turn it into a positive - hopefully for the family - but also for the community and the Islamic center here," Mirza said.

As for Mohamed Bary he hopes the court will bring his daughter back to Ohio.

"I want my girl home, my daughter back. I want my child back home because, you know, our family is not complete," the father said.

WFTV Channel 9 in Orlando, Florida provided WOSU with tape of Rifqa Bary.