Muslim worshipers in an Arkansas mosque have paid a $1,700 fine to keep a vandal who defaced their mosque with a swastika out of jail.
A few weeks after the three men responsible for vandalising the mosque were caught in February, 2017, Noah Davis told Dr Louay Nassri, the president of the mosque, that his brother Abraham had participated in the vandalism. He then delivered a letter that his brother wrote to the mosque from his jail cell.
In the letter, Abraham Davis sought forgiveness for what he had done to the mosque in October, 2016.
“It was a very sincere letter. He showed remorse. He was very apologetic. He said: ‘You don’t deserve this and I never wanted to do this,’” Dr. Nassri told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I was surprised by it.”
On the night of Oct. 20, 2016, Davis and two friends spray-painted the front of the Al Salam mosque in Fort Smith with swastikas, foul language and the words “Go home. We don’t want you here.”
About six months later, police tracked down all three suspects with the help of the mosque’s security cameras and arrested them.
Thanks to Davis’s apologetic letter, Dr Nassri decided, along with other members of the mosque, to advocate on his behalf. The mosque asked the prosecuting attorney to tell the judge that the Islamic community is asking for forgiveness and mercy for Davis.
Dr Nassri said the mosque’s members had forgiven Davis, who stood watch while one of the other men spray painted the graffiti, and didn’t want this one mistake to ruin the rest of his life.
But despite the mosque’s intervention, the young men were charged with felony offenses and given suspended sentences, which required them to obey the conditions of their parole, complete community service and pay a fine of more than $3,000 or face six years in prison.
Dr Nassri said the mosque learned that Davis was struggling to meet his monthly payments for the fine, even though he had landed a job at a local gas station.
“We heard that he was having financial problems,” Dr. Nassri told NBC. “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.”
The funds were originally allocated for renovations to the mosque, but Dr Nassri said that he believes paying the fines was a better choice.
“It shouldn’t be hanging over him for the rest of his life,” Dr. Nassri said. “We knew this person did a bad thing, and there has to be consequences for their actions. But we didn’t have any ill feelings toward anybody.”