Sabrina Tavernise

Unexpected happy ending: A vandalized Arkansas mosque becomes an inspirational tale

Unexpected happy ending: A vandalized Arkansas mosque becomes an inspirational tale

Every so often, the New York Times revisits some of their most popular or most-read stories. Earlier in December, they returned to the story of a bunch of white kids who vandalized a mosque in Fort Smith, Ark., last August. At the time, the story of how the mosque leaders reached out and forgave Abraham Davis was amazing to read and I commented on it for this blog. 

The reporter, Sabrina Tavernise, continued to follow the story for months, especially since Davis was ordered by a court to repay some $3,200 in fines and restitution; an amount that was nearly impossible for him to save. He had finally gotten a job at a convenience store, but it paid very little.

Then –- in one of those happy endings every reporter wishes for -– the mosque got an unexpected grant from a foundation. One of the things its leaders chose to do was pay off Davis’ fine. When the reporter broke the news to him, he was speechless for a time. She tells that story here:

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Abraham Davis had his mouth open, but no words were coming out. We were sitting together on his mother’s couch near her Christmas tree earlier this month and I had just played him a short recording of the president of Fort Smith’s Al Salam mosque.
Abraham had vandalized the mosque with two friends more than a year before. It was an act of bigotry that he deeply regretted. His expression of remorse — written in a letter from jail — and the mosque’s forgiveness and subsequent advocacy for him, inspired my Aug. 26 article, “The Two Americans.”…
But most of the debt still remained to be paid. It was one of his life’s daily stresses: If he stopped making monthly payments, he could end up in prison for six years.

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