Far from bitter, he’s serving up a double shot of forgiveness.
A Bay Ridge cafe owner spent $1,000 to hang a message of absolution on his storefront after a thief broke in and made off with thousands of dollars on Aug. 17. Abdul Elenani posted the nearly 8-foot-long banner on Third Avenue coffee spot Cocoa Grinder by Aug. 20, offering clemency and beseeching the burglar to change his ways. The brew maestro did not call police, because he’s not one to hold a bitter grudge, he said.
“People tend to forget to forgive, and it becomes all about taking revenge,” said Elenani. “Rather than harming the person, I want to send them a clear message. I’d rather forgive the person and hopefully he changes.”
Elenani drafted the missive shortly after the break-in. It explains that he did not call cops and is instead encouraging the cutpurse to seek help.
“Well sir/madam, I didn’t report this, and I didn’t check the cameras to see who you are. I’d rather just not know,” Elenani’s letter states. “If the money you stole was to better you and your family’s living, then I forgive you. If it was stolen for you to go out there and ruin yourself and health, I still forgive you and ask of you to fix yourself.”
Locals are split over Elenani’s bold move.
It’s an inspirational message, one neighbor said.
“I think it’s a great example he’s setting,” said Mohammed M., a Ridgite who didn’t want to give his full name. “If I was in his shoes, I don’t know what I’d do, but it’s a good message he’s trying to send.”
But a fellow cafe owner argued that Elenani should have alerted law-enforcement officials, lest the bandit strike again.
“He shouldn’t do this, he should call the police,” said George Dokmaji, the owner of Sally’s Coffee Shop nearby. “If someone stole food to feed themselves or their family, okay forgive that, but not in this situation where someone is hurting your business.”
Elenani, who practices Islam, said his religion was a big motivator for the banner, which includes two quotes from the prophet Muhammad, he said.
“As a Muslim, that’s what I was taught — to forgive,” he said. “It’s a normal reaction. I don’t understand why some people would think otherwise.”
A drunk patron from a local bar already tore the banner down once, and Elenani plans to keep it up until it disappears, he said.