A 17-year-old runaway who claims she fled her Muslim family's home in Ohio because she feared becoming the victim of an "honor killing" will stay in Florida — temporarily — a judge ruled Friday.
Rifqa Bary, a Christian convert whose parents are Muslim immigrants from Sri Lanka, will remain in foster care in Florida until another hearing is held Sept. 3.
Rifqa fled to Florida after her parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, learned that she was baptized earlier this year without their knowledge. The parents reported her missing to Columbus, Ohio, Police on July 19. Weeks later, using cell phone and computer records, police tracked the girl to the Rev. Blake Lorenz, pastor of the Orlando-based Global Revolution Church.
Florida's Gov. Charlie Crist weighed in on the mater Friday with the following statement: "I am grateful to Circuit Judge Daniel Dawson for his decision to grant Fathima Rifqa Bary the right to remain in Florida. ... We will continue to fight to protect Rifqa's safety and wellbeing as we move forward."
In an emotional six-minute interview with WFTV in Florida, Rifqa, who met Lorenz through an online Facebook group, said she expects to be killed if she is forced to return to Ohio.
"If I had stayed in Ohio, I wouldn't be alive," she said. "In 150 generations in family, no one has known Jesus. I am the first — imagine the honor in killing me."
"There is great honor in that, because if they love Allah more than me, they have to do it. It's in the Koran," said in the interview, which has been posted on YouTube.
Rifqa, who is seen wearing a large diamond cross during the interview, said she had to hide her Bible "for years," and she repeatedly "snuck out" to attend Christian prayer meetings. She referred to previous victims of so-called honor killings, in which young Muslim women were murdered for bringing dishonor to their families.
"They love God more than me, they have to do this," Bary told WFTV. "I'm fighting for my life. You guys don't understand. … I want to worship Jesus freely, that's what I want. I don't want to die."
Contacted by FOXNews.com, Rifqa'a father Mohamed Bary said he has no intentions of harming his daughter.
"I love my daughter and I want her to come back to the family," he said, declining further comment.
If sent back to Ohio, Rifqa would not be allowed to live on her own, since the state does not have an emancipation statute.
The Barys reportedly emigrated from Sri Lanka in 2000 to seek medical treatment for Rifqa, who lost the sight in her right eye following an accident at home.
Barbra Joyner, Mohamed Bary's lawyer, declined to comment on Rifqa's interview with WFTV but said transferring the case back to Ohio will be in the "best interest" of the girl.
Craig McCarthy, an attorney for Aysha Bary, agreed that the case should be moved back to Ohio and added that the girl's mother is afraid for her safety.
"[Aysha Bary] has shifted to downright frightened, scared of what might confront her publicly on Friday," McCarthy told FOXNews.com. "She is scared for her family, of losing her daughter, of never knowing the truth of what happened and for her own safety."
McCarthy said Rifqa's account of how she traveled to Florida has "holes in it," but declined to elaborate. He also declined to respond to allegations that Bary's father abused the girl when he learned of her conversion to Christianity.
Dr. Phyllis Chesler, an author and professor of psychology at the Richmond College of the City University of New York, said she believes Bary will be in danger if she is sent back to her parents.
"Anyone who converts from Islam is considered an apostate, and apostasy is a capital crime," Chesler wrote FOXNews.com. "If she is returned to her family, if she is lucky, they will isolate her, beat her, threaten her, and if she is not 'persuaded' to return to Islam, they will kill her. They have no choice."
Chesler, who wrote "Are Honor Killings Simply Domestic Violence?" for Middle East Quarterly, said the tradition of such slayings is not fully understood by most Americans, including those in law enforcement.
"She escaped from her family's brutal tyranny and shamed her family further through public exposure," Chesler said. "Muslim girls and women are killed for far less."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.