MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A woman attacked for not speaking English in a Minnesota restaurant is talking about how she found the capacity to forgive.
“What I did is a simple. I forgive you to another human being, and I think we all have that within our hearts,” Asma Jama said.
Jodie Burchard-Risch hit Jama with a beer mug at a Coon Rapids Applebee’s in October of 2015. Burchard-Risch became agitated when she heard Jama speaking Swahili.
The attacked left Jama with 17 stitches, headaches and scars that will last a lifetime. But Jama refuses to let life’s setbacks keep her from following her passion to help others.
“I’ve come to realize in this world, you have to choose love over hate,” Jama said. “You can’t hold hate inside your heart. It will just eat you up.”
Jama says facing Burchard-Risch in court and giving her a message of forgiveness was necessary in order for her to move on with her life.
“When I was talking to Jodie, I was really speaking from my heart. I mean, I just wanted her to understand that I’m not different from her,” Jama said. “We look different. I choose to wear a scarf because that’s my religion. But me and her are not different at all. We bleed the same.”
Jama says the incident that left her a victim rocked her world, but it did not destroy her will to make a difference.
Raw Video: Asma Jama’s Full Speech To Jodie Bruchard-Risch
“For me now is a fight that I want people to understand we’re all equal,” she said. “What is on my head doesn’t define me. It just shows that I’m Muslim. Otherwise, it does not define Asma, who she is inside.”
Jama says on the inside, she is a proud Minnesotan who believes equality for all is a human right.
She hopes the woman who hurt her changes her thoughts and actions towards people who may appear different.
“My hope for Jodie is she looks back at this incident and thinks to herself that, ‘Yeah, they’re people just like me,'” Jama said. “When you see somebody covered … Jodie should not instantly think we’re bad people. Have a conversation with someone. Open that door of a conversation, say ‘hello.'”
Jama says the support of Burchard-Risch’s sister and daughter was incredible. It also made it easier for her to let the woman who wronged her know that she too is not alone.
“I still stand with you and I know what you went through that year. I went through the same thing. And I would want you to come out of this, not because I told you to choose love over hate. I want you to come from your heart, I want you to realize we’re all the same,” she said.
Jama works as an advocate for domestic abuse victims, and now she is also helping hate crime victims.
Burchard-Risch was convicted of third-degree assault, which carried a tougher penalty than if she was charged with a hate crime.