The two men charged with vandalizing the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro last summer formally apologized for their actions during a Friday afternoon service at the mosque.
Charles Stout and Thomas Gibbs are accused of damaging and defacing the mosque in July by spray-painting profanities about Allah on the building and putting bacon on and around the door. Pork is banned in Islam.
In addition to charging the men with committing a civil rights violation and conspiracy to commit a civil rights violation, authorities also accuse Stout of deleting cell phone photos he took of the vandalism and destroying the clothes he wore.
Their attorneys reached out to the mosque late last year about apologizing, and one of the leaders, Ahmad Abu-Halimah, said the community unanimously welcomed the idea.
"The profanity ... in the name of God was unacceptable," Abu-Halimah said. But, he notes, "part of our religion is that we have to be forgiving people. We learn that. We teach our kids that."
The two men attended a 1 p.m. service at the Center, alongside their attorneys. Abu-Halimah says the parents of Stout, who was 19 when he was indicted, also came.
In their address to the congregation, the men expressed regret for their actions and asked for forgiveness, saying — according to Abu-Halimah — they would never want something similar to happen at their church. Afterward, mosque attendees shook their hands and hugged them.
"They were very genuine, in all honesty," Abu-Halimah says. "Only God knows, obviously, but I promise you, I don't believe these two young gentlemen will be anything but wonderful citizens."
If convicted, the men face up to a year in prison.