Fathima Rifqa Bary, has claimed that her parents are “radical Muslims,” yet the reality seems to be that it is actually she herself who has fallen into the ranks of radicals. We’re already very familiar with the extremist church she is involved with, the Global Revolution Church, which preaches that there is today an Armageddon between good (the Christians) and evil (the Muslims).
Now, let’s look into a different group she has associated herself with, namely The Call, another End of Times Armageddon invoking group. Here she is on a conference call with Lou Engle, the fanatical leader of the cult:
Up until about four minutes into the video she sounds fairly sane, but at about 4:20, suddenly she becomes possessed by what we can only assume is the Holy Spirit. She enters a trance-like state that to us normal human beings seems bizarre, to say the least. I’ve seen some preachers, Imams, and Rabbis have some crazy highs and lows in their speeches, but usually they build up to it. On the other hand, Fathima Rifqa just turned on the crazy from the very start; one second she’s talking like a normal human being and the next she starts yelling in a crazed delirium, reaffirming the view that she’s been brainwashed by fundamentalists.
By 5:44, she does her best Glenn Beck impression, i.e. fake crying. When the initial story broke, I saw some YouTube users claim that Fathima Rifqa was fake crying. I was skeptical, and gave her the benefit of doubt but when I saw the video of her talking to Lou Engle, I was really forced to reconsider my benevolence. It does seem that she can turn on the fake crying at will. It is therefore not so difficult to believe that she could also be faking this entire thing.
One other thing: in the Lou Engle conference call, pay close attention to the end of the video: they make it clear that Fathima Rifqa doesn’t care about her own safety; she will–as she says herself–go wherever God takes her. The reason for all of this–according to these people–is not to protect Fathima Rifqa Bary (since she is ready to be martyred) but to advertise Christianity to 50 million Muslims who need salvation. But wasn’t the entire court case about Fathima’s safety? I think the video really shows that it’s not about that at all; it’s about publicity.
A writer for RightWingWatch.org wrote:
For the last few days, I’ve been covering the right-wing effort to mobilize it own Christian forces to counter the “dark spiritual content” of the upcoming Muslim prayer rally. Tonight, activists gathered for a conference call/prayer rally hosted by the National Day of Prayer Task Force, headed by Shirely Dobson, wife of Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, Lou Engle of The Call, and featuring other activists like Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Cindy Jacobs.
Tonight, this effort revealed itself to be part of the much larger Religious Right battle against Islam in America when the Religious Right’s latest cause célèbre, Rifqa Bary, joined the conference call.
At the beginning of the clip, Lou Engle is told by one of the other participants that “their little sister” is on the line, at which point Engle introduces Rifqa Bary to the conference call participants and asks her to share her story. Bary, sounding like a somewhat nervous but otherwise perfectly average teenager, recounts her conversion to Christianity and her decision to flee from the home of her Muslim parents in Ohio. Following that, Engle declared Bary to be “an Esther for such a time as this” and asks her to lead the call in prayer, which she agrees to do, at which point she becomes seemingly hysterical and rather incoherent while sobbing and praying, making it nearly impossible to understand what she is saying outside of her repeated cries to Jesus.
And then, just like that, she stops, seemingly catching the other participants off guard until Engle then chimes in with his own fervent prayers to God to “use Rifqa to be an Esther.” Soon Engle is joined by various others, all of whom pray for this modern day Esther who will lead Muslims out of Islam and into Christianity while asking God to spread Rifqa’s “so that the testimony of Jesus will go out to CNN, will go out to talk shows and use this little story so that all across America the Gospel will be preached” and to “expose the hidden darkness that is rolling into the nation through these ideologies.”
Eventually, Engle unmutes the conference call’s participants and asks them all to pray for Rifqa, at which point the call the descends into little more than chaos and static.
So this is all a publicity stunt to advertise Jesus. Here’s what I think happened: Fathima Rifqa was attracted to some fringe Christian groups due to their rhetoric. These Bible thumpers saw Fathima Rifqa as a tool they could use to boost their own publicity–a way to call the Muslim heathens to Jesus. They convinced a young and impressionable Fathima Rifqa that she wasn’t just some ordinary high school student but a prophet sent to the heathen nations.
Let’s investigate Lou Engle and The Call to see what kind of company Fathima Rifqa keeps. Engle is quite the loon. At first, I thought he had what psychiatrists would call akathisia, or the inability to sit still–a common side-effect of anti-psychotic medications. On closer examination though it seems that it’s malingering–part of his ploy to dupe impressionable young people that he speaks through the Holy Ghost. One mainstream Christian critic of his wrote:
As he spoke, Lou Engle constantly rocked back and forth, as apparently he almost always does now when preaching, under what he would claim to be the anointing of the Holy Spirit. His spiritual manifestations are supposed to be a sign that he speaks under the unction of the Holy Spirit and when the jerks, grunts, twiches and miscellaneous experiences and feelings get stronger, they supposedly bear witness to him and the audience that what he says is true and prophetic and the ‘glory’ and ‘anointing’ of the Lord is there testifying to it.
To see this conman bobbing and rocking, watch this here (it’s long so just watch a bit of it to see what I mean):
And here he is doing the same even when nobody is in the room except for the camera:
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), a non-profit civil rights organization that tracks hate groups, cites Lou Engle as a prominent Joel’s Army pastor. Proponents of this theology (considered heretical by mainstream Christians) believe that the Christian youth will become a part of Joel’s Army that will physically “conquer the earth” and forcibly convert “the nations” to Christianity. Democracy will be overthrown and a literalistic Biblical law will reign supreme. Keep in mind that the Islamophobes like Robert Spencer and Pam Geller try to convince us that Muslims secretly want to conquer the entire world for Islam, overthrow democracy for a harsh understanding of Sharia, and convert the world to their religion.
Yet, here we have a girl (Fathima Rifqa Bary) associating with a man (Lou Engle) who is linked to a warlike theology that endorses the idea that Christian youth armies will conquer the entire world for Jesus, overthrow democracy, and forcibly convert non-believers to Christianity–and look at what side Spencer and Geller are on! On pp.226 of his book The Pathetically Incorrect Guide to Islam, Spencer demands that Muslims must “renounce sharia’s expansionist imperative,” yet I don’t see him demanding that radical Christian dominionists must renounce their desire to conquer by force the entire world for Christ. Well, it’s not surprising, since in his book, Spencer himself calls for a Crusade against Islam (Ibid., p.231), not unlike these Joel’s Army lunatics. So we’re coming full circle here. The nutters defending each other.
I urge you to read the article by SPLC, as well as this expose by another hate watch site known as the Box Turtle Bulletin. Here is an excerpt:
Going back to the earlier article, Casey Sanchez (of the Southern Poverty Law Center) describes Engles as follows:
Joel’s Army is prophesied to become an Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a divine mandate to physically impose Christian “dominion” on non-believers…
Joel’s Army followers, many of them teenagers and young adults who believe they’re members of the final generation to come of age before the end of the world, are breaking away in droves from mainline Pentecostal churches. Numbering in the tens of thousands, they base their beliefs on an esoteric reading of the second chapter of the Old Testament Book of Joel, in which an avenging swarm of locusts attacks Israel. In their view, the locusts are a metaphor for Joel’s Army…
“The pitch and intensity of the military rhetoric of this branch of the global Dominionist movement has substantially increased since the beginning of 2008,” writes The Discernment Research Group, a Christian watchdog group that tracks what they call heresies or cults within Christianity. “One can only wonder how long before this transforms into real warfare with actual warriors.”
Joel’s Army believers are hard-core Christian dominionists, meaning they believe that America, along with the rest of the world, should be governed by conservative Christians and a conservative Christian interpretation of biblical law. There is no room in their doctrine for democracy or pluralism…Joel’s Army followers believe that once democratic institutions are overthrown, their hierarchy of apostles and prophets will rule over the earth, with one church per city…
The atmosphere is less charged with violence at “The Call,” a 12-hour revival of up to 20,000 youths led by Joel’s Army pastor Lou Engle and held every summer in a major American city (this year’s event was scheduled for Washington, D.C. in August)…
As even his critics note, Engle is a sweet, humble and gentle man whose persona is difficult to reconcile with his belief in an end-time armyof invincible young Christian warriors. Yet while Engle is careful to avoid deploying explicit Joel’s Army rhetoric at high-profile events like The Call, when he’s speaking in smaller hyper-charismatic circles to avowed Joel’s Army followers, he can venture into bloodlust.
This March, at a “Passion for Jesus” conference…Engle called on his audience for vengeance.
“I believe we’re headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown on the Earth, not just in America but all over the globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no middle ground,” said Engle. He was referring to the Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose followers were slaughtered under orders from the prophet Elijah.
“There’s an Elijah generation that’s going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion,” Engle continued. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire.”
Although Joel’s Army theology is mainly directed at people in their teens and early 20s via events like The Call and ministries like IHOP, sometimes the target audience is even younger. In some of the most arresting images in “Jesus Camp,” a 2006 documentary about the Kids on Fire bible camp in North Dakota, grade school-aged kids dressed in army fatigues wield swords and conduct military field maneuvers. “A lot of people die for God and they’re not afraid,” one camper told ABC News reporters in a follow-up segment.
“We’re kinda being trained to be warriors,” added another, “only in a funner way.”
Engle has a bunch of other views considered heretical by mainstream Christianity, such as the belief in “God men” and blood atonement. It is strange that so many Christians would want to place their trust in Fathima Rifqa Bary who has made her bed with such shady groups and people.
Her fascination with Lou Engle began long before. As Davi Baker of the SF Examiner notes, it was discovered that Lou Engle’s book entitled Digging the Wells of Revival was part of Fathima Rifqa’s reading material. Additionally, the group she found refuge in, the Global Revolution Church, has similar metanarratives. Baker writes:
On the pen drive found in her room was a reading list, and on that reading list was a book titled “Digging the Wells of Revival” by Lou Engle. The final chapter of that book is titled “The Hinge of History: Raising up the Nazirites.” …Some have teased that Rifqa’s writings indicate that she wants to be a prophet, but this is exactly what Lou Engle has in mind. Lou writes that God said to him, “America is receiving Her apostles, prophets, and evangelists, but She has not yet seen Her Nazirites!” Lou Engle has a long history of claiming direct communication with God, as well as prophetic dreams…
They seem to imagine some kind of army of super Christians who will appear in a moment of National crisis and win the day. What’s the crisis? Consider these statements from Lou’s homepage, TheCall.com. “There is a great spiritual conflict with a rising tide of Islamic boldness being manifested… we must have spiritual discernment as to the spiritual dark powers that are being invoked into our nation.” Compare that with similar statements from Blake Lorenz, the pastor of Global Revolution Church who housed Rifqa, “These are the last days, these are the end times, and this conflict between Islam and Christianity is going to grow greater. This conflict between good and evil is going to grow greater.”
The radical cult members and Fathima Rifqa are feeding off of each others’ delusions. As one astute blogger wrote:
These Evangelical Fundamentalists see signs and wonders everywhere while they look for the new prophets among this last generation the Elijahs and the Esthers who will lead others into the battle against the Devil. So as we have noted Lou Engle,Bill Johnson & other Evangelicals who adhere to these beliefs read into certain situations what may be more than what’s actually there.
So enter Rifqa Bary a convert from a Muslim American family who refers to herself as an Esther chosen to play a special role in the last days by God.She says she has had visions of angels and demons of God and Satan and hears God speaking to her directly . So to some she is a prophet to others possibly just a rather enthusiastic convert to Christianity and to others they wonder if she is either just delusional or whether the Evangelicals with whom she was in contact encouraged and fed her delusions. For instance like any true prophet she too must suffer and be ridiculed and harassed and victimized by non-believers so she may exaggerate all out of proportion certain events and encounters and the speech of others. In her case with the help of these anti-Islamic Evangelical Christians she has come to believe her parents want to kill her or that other Muslims are looking for her so they can kill her.
These “True Believers” latch onto her narrative and so believe that Rifqa is being persecuted by her family by Islam and by those who are in authority in part because they recognize who Rifqa is though they may not know this on a conscious level. So all facts surrounding her case are seen through this prism of signs and wonders and the persecution of the “Real Church” or “body of Christ” so they are not going to be easily convinced that they are wrong about Rifqa that she may just be another confused impressionable anxiety ridden teenager with a touch of meglomania.
I think Fathima Rifqa Bary, the Global Revolution Church, and The Call have used the psychological defense mechanism known as projection: they themselves are the radicals and extremists, but they project that onto Fathima Rifqa’s parents and the Mooslims in general. From what we can tell, Fathima Rifqa’s parents don’t seem too passionate, zealous, or dogmatic about their religion, not nearly as much as Fathima Rifqa and those she has joined. So the real question is: who is the real extremist here? Who is espousing the whole ‘holy war between Christianity and Islam’ ideology? Ironically, the group that Fathima Rifqa has associated herself with is linked to a theology that dictates that non-believers should be forced into the faith of Christianity.
We can draw some broader conclusions from this: those Islamophobes who have taken up the Fathima Rifqa case as their casus belli–including Robert Spencer and Pam Geller–are the real extremists, not the vast majority of Muslims whom they always point the finger at. It is after all Spencer, Geller, et al. who believe in a modern day Crusade, one they justify by fear mongering about the other. What peace loving people should ask–when confronted by their rantings–is: who are the real extremists here?