KUALA LUMPUR: A father who brought a US judge to tears when he forgave his son’s murderer is now an iconic speaker for compassion and forgiveness in international forums.
Abdul-Munim Sombat Jitmoud, a retired principal who was in charge of seven Islamic schools in the US for 31 years, regularly speaks at programmes promoting attributes associated with mercy.
“I speak at mosques, churches, synagogues and for any other organisation that invites me,” he told FMT after an engagement at a forum on the importance of father figures that was organised by the Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement, or Abim.
Last December, the Malaysian government gave him the Icon of Compassion award in recognition of his stature as a paragon of mercy.
He has been interviewed by actor Morgan Freeman and other famous personalities for his inspiring story.
In the interview with FMT, he said the premeditated murder of his son, Salahuddin, had made it important for him to save young people from what he sees as the “downfall of society”.
He said contemporary society was the real culprit in Salahuddin’s murder.
“That’s why I did not blame the boy who killed my son. The society failed him. He was from a broken home and the society was unable to help him get on his feet. He got involved with bad company, drugs and alcohol.”
Salahuddin was killed when he was making a pizza delivery on the night of April 19, 2015, in Lexington, Kentucky. He was 22. The killer was 24-year-old Trey Alexander Relford.
Many observers labelled it a hate crime against Muslims, but police said there was no evidence of this.
Jitmoud said he saw Relford as a product of a cruel society and the victim of people who had abandoned him when he was developing as a child.
“When I look at his case, it makes me love humanity even more,” he added.
Relford was about to be sentenced to death after pleading guilty for abetting in the murder when Jitmoud stood up to declare that he forgave him.
He then embraced Relford in a moment recorded in international media reports.
Instead of death, Relford was sentenced to 31 years in prison.
Jitmoud, now 69, said his life had changed.
“I get to share with society and communities that we have to be patient with one another, whether Muslim or non-Muslim,” he said. “We have to live in peace and harmony.”