This Muslim Woman's Emotional Words To Her Attacker Are Something All Islamophobes Should Hear

"I am an American citizen, and I fight for this country today. I would fight for it as much as you would."

In October 2015, Asma Jama was at an Applebee's in Minnesota with her family, having a conversation in their native Swahili tongue, when a woman walked over to their table and smashed a beer mug in Jama's face. According to the police, Jodie Burchard-Risch, the attacker, screamed at Jama: "In America, we speak English!"

More than a year later, Jama got the chance to come face-to-face with her assailant. On Tuesday, after Burchard-Risch was sentenced to six months in jail, Jama, decked in a deep pink hijab and a black blazer, spoke before the judge. 

"What happened to me on that day is unacceptable. It shouldn't happen to anyone else," Jama said. "I used to be a carefree person and now I can't go anywhere by myself. It really impacted and changed my life — for the good and for the bad, too."

Speaking about the traumatizing incident was clearly still difficult for her. Jama hesitated and shed a tear while she struggled to find her words. Then she asked the judge if she could address Burchard-Risch. 

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"Jodie, what you did to me that day wasn't good. You should never do anything like that to anybody. But I just wanted to tell you in front of everybody today that I do forgive you," Jama said. "My religion teaches me to forgive so I can move on with my life. If I hold a grudge and I hold the hatred held towards me against you, it's not going to serve me well. So in front of everybody here, I do forgive you, and I hope you choose love over hate."

Hatred "eats at you," Jama said, adding she knew Burchard-Risch had just as arduous a year as she's had.

Reports of Islamophobic attacks in the U.S. and Europe have been on the rise in recent years as increasingly inflammatory political rhetoric pushed its way into mainstream society. The presidential election this past year has emboldened many people to act out on ignorance and hatred, and the number of anti-Muslim motivated attacks spiked even more dramatically after the election. 

But in court on Tuesday, Jama displayed a grace and emotion that put those holding hostile Islamophobic sentiment to shame. She told Burchard-Rischsaid she harbored no ill feelings towards her. "I just want you, at the end of all this, to understand that we are all the same. It doesn't matter what's on my head, it doesn't matter the color of my skin. We are all the same human beings, we're fighting for the same rights. I am an American citizen, and I fight for this country today. I would fight for it as much as you would. I just want you to understand, you hate somebody you didn't know anything about," Jama said. "I hope at the end of all this you learn we're all the same, there's no difference between me and you."

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