“We just wanted to say how very, very sorry to all of you. We wouldn’t want anyone to do that to our church and we can’t imagine the disappointment and the hurt and fear we caused,” Charlie Stout and Thomas Gibbs regretted as they addressed the congregation with their lawyers and family members by their side, ktvq.com reported.
“I only ask that you forgive a dumb, foolish and immature act.”
During Friday service, attended by hundreds of Muslims at the mosque, Stout and Gibbs sat at the back and listened to the sermon (Khutbah) on forgiveness.
“I hope the prayer service was a learning experience for the teens. I hope they walk away with a better understanding of Islam,” Saleh Sbenaty, a board member at the Islamic center, said.
Immediately after the apologies, Dr. Ahmad Abu-Halimah read a statement issued by the board of the Islamic center saying in part: “We forgive you. We forgive you for the behavior that was done, and we wish you a better and wiser future.”
Several Muslim men in the congregation also approached the teens to shake their hands and thank them for their apology.
“It means a lot to us. It takes courage for someone to admit his wrongdoing and these men were brave enough to face what they did,” Sbenaty said.
“The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro continues community outreach programs to educate the public about Islam,” he continued.
In July 2017, the two teens were caught on surveillance video spraying hate messages on the outside of the mosque and placing bacon by the entrance. Both men got indicted by a federal grand jury the following September.
Stout and Gibbs are scheduled to appear in federal court in Nashville on March 27. If convicted, both men could face up to a year in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.