An Arkansas mosque has paid off the remaining court fines of a man who helped vandalize their sacred space ― doing its part to make sure he doesn’t have to serve any more jail time for the crime.
Hisham Yasin, social director of the Masjid Al Salam in Fort Smith, told HuffPost on Tuesday that his congregation had forgiven the convicted vandal, Abraham Davis, long ago. Paying the more than $1,700 in fines Davis still owed was a way to put that forgiveness into action.
Now, Yasin wants Davis move on with his life.
“He needs to keep going, don’t even look back. The back is gone,” Yasin said. “I look forward to seeing him work and study and become something in the future. And at that time, he’ll talk about what happened with him ... how he flipped his life from bad to good.”
Davis was one of three men arrested after the mosque was vandalized in October 2016. He drove to the mosque in his mother’s minivan and reportedly stood watch as one of his friends drew swastikas, curses, and the words “Go Home” on the building.
Davis has expressed deep regret for the crime, writing the mosque a letter of apology from jail.
The mosque leaders decided not to press charges against the men ― not wanting the act to destroy their futures. Still, Davis was convicted of a felony and burdened with about $3,200 in fines.
The story gained national attention after Davis and mosque leaders were profiled in a New York Times story in August. Al Salam received letters and pledges of support from their local interfaith community and from across the country. Yasin said one organization, the Jay Pritzker Foundation, gave the mosque a $25,000 donation. The amount took the congregation by surprise ― and re-energized its desire to help Davis.
Meanwhile, Davis was worried about paying his fines. And failure to meet the monthly payments could have resulted in more jail time, according to a follow-up story in the Times last week. Part of his debt was reportedly paid off by a Times reader. But the remaining $1,731 was donated by the mosque. Yasin said he brought a cashier’s check for that amount to the Sebastian County Courthouse on Dec. 11.
“I was honestly super happy,” Yasin said. “When we start something good, we have to finish it all the way.”
In last week’s Times’ story, Davis was described as being dumbstruck by the news that his debt had been paid.
“It’s a great weight being lifted off of my shoulders,” Davis told the Times. “And I don’t deserve it, but this act of kindness, it’s just, wow.”
For Yasin, reading about Davis’ shock was a confirmation that the congregation’s decision was the right thing to do.
“We need that shock for him, to stop all evil acts in the future,” he told HuffPost. “He’ll say, ‘Look at those people, I hurt them, I hurt their mosque, I hurt their God, and with all those bad things, they still showed me the most love I’ve ever received.’”
“That’s how we treat people in Islam,” Yasin said. “Islam is a love religion. Islam is peace.”