A Minnesota woman attacked at an Applebee’s for speaking a foreign language delivered a powerful message to her assailant in court this week.
Asma Jama was in a booth with her family in October 2015, speaking their native language of Swahili, when fellow restaurant patron Jodie Burchard-Risch suddenly smashed a beer mug in her face.
Police said Burchard-Brisch and her husband were upset when they heard them talking, telling the family to “go home” and yelling “In America, we speak English!”
Burchard-Brisch pleaded guilty to felony third-degree assault and was sentenced to six months in jail on Tuesday. After the sentencing, Jama spoke to her assailant in front of the court.
“Jodie, what you did to me that day wasn’t good. You should never do anything like that to anybody,” Jama said. “But I just wanted to tell you in front of everybody that I do forgive you. My religion teaches me to forgive...”
The assault left Jama’s face cut open and bruised, requiring 17 stitches on her lip. But she told her attacker Tuesday that she has no “ill feelings” toward her.
“I just want you, at the end of all this, to understand that we are all the same,” Jama said. “I am an American citizen, and I fight for this country ... just as much as you would.”
The attack occurred in a year that saw the most anti-Muslim hate crimes since 9/11. And while there’s been a surge in hate crimes since President-elect Donald Trump was elected, Jama’s emotional speech serves as an incredible reminder of what can happen when you respond to intolerance and hate with love.
“It doesn’t matter what’s on my head. It doesn’t matter the color of my skin,” Jama told her attacker. “We’re fighting for the same rights.”
Listen to Jama’s entire statement below: