An Arkansas mosque has forgiven the man who vandalized the building, even going so far as to pay the miscreant’s four-figure fine so he wouldn’t be destitute, KARK-TV (Little Rock) is reporting.
Back in October 2016, Abraham Davis was caught on surveillance cameras vandalizing the Masjid Al Salam mosque in Fort Smith, a northwest Arkansas city of about 90,000 people. Davis was seen using spray paint to draw swastikas and write the words “go home” on the outside of the building.
Though shocked and hurt, as KFSM-TV (Fort Smith) reported at the time, the worshippers at the mosque weren’t going to be swayed by hate. Board member Hisham Yasin vowed to forgive the person who vandalized their building, saying that he or she acted on ignorance.
“God forgive you and he doesn’t know the meaning and beauty of Islam. We invite him to come to our mosque and come with with us and tell us what’s the problem.”
The vandal was later identified as Davis, at the time barely out of his teens. He and some buddies had gotten liquored up and decided to raise some hell, as the New York Times reported in August of this year. The following day, when he saw his image all over the news, vandalizing they very building where one of his high school classmates worshipped, he was shaken with guilt and regret.
A few months later, Davis sat in a jail cell, his crimes having caught up to him. Facing years in prison on hate-crime charges, a guilt-ridden Abraham wrote two letters: one to his mother, apologizing for what had become of his life; and one to the mosque, apologizing for what he had done.
Within the leadership of the mosque, Davis found his apologies met with sympathetic ears. One member, an accountant from Morocco, echoed the sentiments of the mosque’s other worshippers: Abraham Davis doesn’t need to have his life ruined because of a juvenile mistake.
“If one of my kids did something stupid like that I would want them to be forgiven.”
In fact, members of the mosque even advocated on Davis’ behalf within the legal system, making it clear that they didn’t want the young man prosecuted.
Unfortunately for Davis, Arkansas law is less forgiving of such matters. He was sentenced to a year’s probation, community service, and a hefty fine and restitution: $3,200, all told.
A contrite Davis has been keeping up with his terms ever since his sentencing. He dutifully shows up on time for his community service at a local Goodwill. Paying the fine, however, has been harder. Jobs are scarce in Fort Smith, particularly for convicted felons with minimal skills. Davis was able to land a job, but those monthly payments ate into his ability to pay the phone bill. His water was cut off just days after returning home from jail.
Mosque president Louay Nassri knew that if Davis failed to make a payment, he’d be heading to prison for six years. Nassri wasn’t going to let that happen.
“We heard that he was having financial problems. Now if you don’t pay your fine, that’s an automatic six years in jail. Well, we didn’t want him to go to jail for six years.”
And so it was that last week, using a combination of donated funds and the mosque’s own money, the Masjid Al Salam submitted a check to the Sebastian County Courts, wiping away Davis’ debt to the community.
Nassri says that Davis’ crime, and the attention the story brought to Fort Smith, has achieved something he could only have dreamed of a year ago: educating people about the true meaning of Islam.
“If he would’ve known who we are, he wouldn’t of [sic] done this. If we would’ve known his troubles with us, we would’ve tried to help him. Communication is extremely important. Education is extremely important.”