Muslim leaders paid off the fine of a man who helped spray-paint a swastika, ‘go home’ and ‘fuck you Islam’ on their mosque.
Abraham Davis, 20, was caught on CCTV helping a friend vandalise the Masjid Al Salam in Fort Smith, Arkansas, with racist graffiti in October 2016.
Davis was sentenced to community service, and handed $3,200 (£2,355) in fines and restitution.
However, he didn’t have the money to pay – and in Arkansas if you don’t pay your fine, you get an automatic six years in prison.
Louay Nassri, president of Al Salam, told Arkansas Matters: ‘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.’
Davis had already spent three months in prison, and while he was there he wrote a letter to the mosque expressing his remorse.
Being unemployed, he assumed he would spend another six years behind bars – but just before the New Year, Nassri paid off the remaining $1,700 (£1,251) of his fine.
‘After all that he had been through, we didn’t want him sitting on the severe financial stress,’ Nassri said. ‘And like I told him, we want him to have a much better future.’
The money they donated had originally been set aside to pay for renovations to the mosque.
‘We thought this was the right thing to do,’ Nassri added. ‘We thought if someone does something bad and comes and apologises, you just forgive them. That should be the natural thing. We had no idea that this forgiveness would be an international story.’
He added that ‘Al Salam’ means ‘peace’, and that he strives to uphold that meaning.
‘If he would have known who we were, he wouldn’t have done this,’ Nassri said. ‘If we would’ve known his troubles with us, we would’ve tried to help him. Communication is extremely important. Education is extremely important.’
Afterwards, Davis said he was amazed that such an incredible act of kindness could come from the people he had hurt the most with his actions.
‘It’s a great weight being lifted off my shoulders,’ he told the New York Times. ‘And I don’t deserve it, but this act of kindness, it’s just, wow.’
Davis now works full time at the Hydration Station petrol station near his house.