US: Mosque leaders help man who defaced their building
A mosque in Fort Smith, Arkansas chose the path of mercy when it paid the fines of a young man who helped vandalize their building last year, helping him avoid jail time.
"We wanted to turn a bad situation around into a good one," one of the mosque's said Tuesday.
Abraham Davis spray-painted swastikas and the words "go home" on the Al Salam mosque's windows and doors in October 2016.
Davis' crime was caught on a surveillance camera and he ended up being convicted of a felony.
He was also fined $3,200 and sentenced to community service. Due to financial problems, however, he was unable to keep up with the payments, which would have meant a six-year jail term.
In the midst of his struggle, the directors of the mosque decided to lift a weight off his shoulders and paid the balance of $1,730 after the rest had been raised by donors.
Hisham Yasin, the mosque's social director, said the mosque received a "generous donation" for restoration from a private non-profit organization after the incident, adding Davis is part of the story.
"I told the masjid [mosque] board that we should pay the remaining balance for Abraham's fine because he's a part of our story and we need to be generous," Yasin told Anadolu Agency.
"We decided to handle the situation as to take the bad and reflect it to good for the benefit of Islam and our community," he said.
He said the Muslim community in Fort Smith is very small, so not many people are aware of them.
"There was no discrimination in the area before the incident occurred last year," Yasin said, adding they received a lot of support messages from the community.
Davis, who currently has a restraining order from the mosque, had apologized for the crime after being forgiven by the mosque leaders.
"I hurt you all, and I am haunted by it. And even after all this, you still forgave me," he said in a letter to the mosque. "You are much better people than I."
Ignorance is the reason for acts of vandalism or hate targeting the American Muslim community, Ibrahim Hooper, media director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), told Anadolu Agency.
"I think by taking this action, in this case, the community [Al Salam Mosque] is sending a message of compassion and mercy that hopefully will lead to greater understanding on the part of the perpetrators," Hooper said.
He said those who behave with bigotry are under the influence of the "internet, radio talk shows, Fox News" and other agenda-driven media outlets.
According to a CAIR report, the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes in the U.S. rose 91 percent in the first half of 2017, spiking from the corresponding period in 2016 -- the worst year for anti-Muslim incidents since the civil rights organization began its documenting system in 2013.
The Southern Poverty Law Center also revealed earlier in 2017 that it found "a dramatic jump in hate violence and incidents of harassment and intimidation around the country" in the wake of President Donald Trump's Nov. 8, 2016 electoral win.