Mosque for­gives van­dal, pays fine to keepp him out of pprison

The Miracle - - National & Int -

A few weeks af­ter the three men re­spon­si­ble for van­dal­iz­ing an Arkansas mosque were caught in Fe­bru­ary, 2017, Dr. Louay Nassri was fin­ish­ing up Fri­day prayers when he heard a knock at the door. Be­fore him stood a well-dressed young man who re­moved his boots be­fore step­ping in­side the place of wor­ship. Noah Davis told Dr. 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 re­called to in a phone in­ter­view from Fort Smith, Ark. 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, Ark. 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’ apolo­getic let­ter, Dr. Nassri, a pe­di­atric pul­mo­nolo­gist who has lived in the town for 37 years, 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. 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. In the fall, 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 the fam­ily was in very bad fi­nan­cial trou­ble. They were evicted from their house,” Dr. Nassri said. “They have a whole lot of pres­sures and on top of it, this fi­nan­cial pres­sure. We wanted to re­lieve the fi­nan­cial pres­sure on the fam­ily.” In the days af­ter the mosque was van­dal­ized, Dr. Nassri said the com­mu­nity ral­lied to­gether to sup­port them by send­ing them kind mes­sages, cards, flow­ers and do­na­tions. He said ev­ery sin­gle re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tion reached out to them, in­clud­ing a Jewish or­ga­ni­za­tion called the Pritzker Foun­da­tion, that do­nated $25,000. With the help of that do­na­tion, Dr. Nassri gave the court a cheque for $1,700 to pay off the re­main­ing bal­ance on Davis’ fine on Dec. 11. Dr. Nassri sent Davis a mes­sage that said the fine had been paid and that the mosque wants him to have a much bet­ter fu­ture. In re­sponse, Davis left a voice­mail ex­press­ing his shock and grat­i­tude. “He said, ‘I have a lot of kinks in my brain. I have to work on it,’” Dr. Nassri re­called.

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