x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Stabbed imam from American University of Sharjah forgives attacker

Diaa Al Suwaidan is said to be in good health after he was stabbed by a former student yesterday and returns to lead morning and afternoon prayers.

SHARJAH // A university imam who was stabbed in the shoulder by a former student says he forgives his attacker.

Diaa Al Suwaidan was injured on Wednesday afternoon near his home at the American University of Sharjah by a young man identified by the university as Ahmad.

“I am now fine and grateful it did not get worse than this. I am praying for him to get well also,” the imam said. “We have no problem at all among ourselves. If anything we are friends, but I had not seen him for the last two years.”

The imam said he was shocked when Ahmad, a Canadian of Palestinian descent, arrived at his home. He said that when he opened his door Ahmad was smiling but holding a knife.

The imam said he spoke to Ahmad and took the knife from him, then he and his son followed the young man to his car, asking him why he had come and what was wrong. When Ahmad was in his car he pulled another knife and lashed out, the imam said.

He twice stopped Ahmad slashing his stomach but could not stop him stabbing his left shoulder.

The former student then started his car and drove off as the imam’s son called police. Officers quickly surrounded the university and Ahmad was arrested when he crashed his car into a tree after a police chase, witnesses said.

The imam was taken to Al Qassimi Hospital but released after a few hours. He thanked police for responding so quickly, and hospital staff for treating his wounds and allowing him to leave to lead prayers at the mosque later that evening.

He said he did not know why Ahmad had chosen to come to his home or why he attacked him.

A former AUS student close to Ahmad said his friend was not acting like himself on the day of the incident and must have “lost control”.

“He is an amazingly kind man as a person, a genius in academics who was even on the chancellor’s list of excellent students,” he said. “He is also an athlete, a good footballer, he goes to the gym and organises tournaments with his friends.”

He said his friend had stopped taking medication for the bipolar disorder doctors had diagnosed four years ago, saying he was stressed at the thought of being on it for the rest of his life.

“He was trying to test and see if he can live without the medication, but this turned him violent,” he added. “This is something that can happen virtually to anyone. Relying on a certain medication all your life, taking it morning and evening, is painful.”

The friend last saw the former student on Tuesday evening and said he seemed normal. On Wednesday morning he posted something on Facebook as usual and no one had any idea what he was going to do that day.

He said his friend simply needed sympathy and prayers, and not to be condemned for acting out of character.

Staff at Kuwait Hospital, where the suspect is being treated, said he was due to undergo plastic surgery for wounds he received during his arrest. He was being given time to recover before officers interrogated him.

ykakande@thenational.ae