A Muslim woman in Minnesota was attacked last year at an Applebee’s restaurant for speaking her native language, and as the trial against her assailant has finally come to a close, she offered forgiveness in a powerful message.
In October 2015 Asma Jama was seated in an Applebee's booth speaking Swahili with her family when another diner named Jodie Burchard-Risch hit her across the face with a glass beer mug, The Huffington Post reports.
Burchard-Risch and her husband were angry with Jama and her family for speaking another language and shouted at them, “In America, we speak English!”
More than a year has passed since the incident, but the trial just came to an end this week. Burchard-Risch pleaded guilty to felony third-degree assault and was sentenced to six months behind bars.
Jama asked the court if she could address Burchard-Risch after the sentencing, and in an impassioned and emotional statement, she offered forgiveness to her attacker and delivered words of wisdom on making judgments about people you don’t know.
“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...”
Although Jama said she didn’t leave the house for seven months after the attack and she still fears going out alone, she insisted that she harbors no malicious feelings toward Burchard-Risch.
Asma Jama— Özer Khalid ?? (@OzerKhalid) November 18, 2015
A Muslim woman brutally attacked with a beer mug in a Minnesota restaurant US for not speaking English pic.twitter.com/0o8dslrfof
“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.”
“It doesn’t matter what’s on my head. It doesn’t matter the color of my skin,” Jama continued. “We’re fighting for the same rights.”
While it may take much more than Jama’s words to remove the hate from Burchard-Risch’s heart, her moving speech reflects the power of combating intolerance with love.
We can only hope that Jama’s plea reached at least one person in that courtroom who may have needed a reminder that regardless of race, religion, or culture, we are all human beings first and foremost.
Banner Photo Credit: Flickr user Frank Boston