This Muslim was left blinded by a vicious attack, the intent of the attacker was to kill the Muslim. Instead of looking for revenge, the Muslim victim instead forgives his attacker, and is looking to have the death penalty avoided. An amazing story indeed.
Rais Bhuiyan saw Mark Stroman and his gun in the reflection of the window.
Then came the question a robber wouldn’t ask, Bhuiyan thought. “Where are you from?”
Within seconds, Bhuiyan, a store clerk, fell to the floor of the convenience store on Buckner Boulevard, bleeding profusely from a head wound from the gun blast. It blinded his right eye but miraculously didn’t damage his brain.
Stroman, a white supremacist, would later confess he was out for revenge against those of Middle Eastern descent in Mesquite and Dallas days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Already, Stroman had killed one Pakistani immigrant; two weeks later, he’d kill an Indian immigrant.
Now, Bhuiyan wants to forgive.
He’ll be asking for a stay of the July 20 evening scheduled execution of Stroman, and a stop to the “cycle of violence,” as he calls it.
“Sometimes, we human beings make mistakes out of anger,” said Bhuiyan, 37, in an interview Monday with The Dallas Morning News. Stroman, a former stonecutter, was convicted of the Oct. 4 killing of Vasudev Patel, an Indian of the Hindu faith who owned a gas station and convenience store in Mesquite.
Stroman also confessed to the Sept. 15 Dallas killing of Waqar Hasan, an immigrant from Pakistan and a Muslim, in what is believed to be the first hate crime in the U.S. after the attacks. He was charged in the shooting of Bhuiyan, a Bangledesh immigrant, on Sept. 21.
Bhuiyan said his Islamic faith led him to realize “hate doesn’t bring any good solution to people. At some point we have to break the cycle of violence. It brings more disaster.”
Bhuiyan shows little sign of the shooting. A slim man with thinning hair and large, wide-set brown eyes, he can only see from his left one. He carries about 38 pellet fragments on the right side of his face, he said.
Bhuiyan said the event changed him and he now celebrates Sept. 21 as his new birthday because it was then he got his life back. Bhuiyan has a full-time job in information technology but wants to return to college. Last fall, he contacted Dr. Rick Halperin, the director of the human rights education program at Southern Methodist University.
It was a coincidence that Halperin already knew many details of Bhuiyan’s story. Stroman had been corresponding with the professor, an anti-death-penalty activist, for two years.
Bhuiyan explained how the event had shaped his life, how he grew introspective about his faith and how he found answers to why he lived and others died.
The events, Halperin said, “raise questions about compassion and healing and the nature of justice.”
As for Bhuiyan, Halperin said, “I am amazed at the calm with which some can forgive the unforgivable.”
Hadi Jawad of the Dallas Peace Center said Bhuiyan’s actions serve as a lesson for others at a critical time for the nation and the world.
“With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 coming up, we need a narrative of compassion and healing. The world has gone through so much darkness,” Jawad said.
Halperin said that a stay of execution in favor of a lifetime sentence for Stroman will be difficult, but they are committed to trying. Stroman is scheduled to die by injection at about 6 p.m. in Huntsville, said a public information officer for the Texas Department of Corrections.
Within six months of Sept. 11, there were 1,717 incidents of harassment, violence or discriminatory acts against Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslims, according to the D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Bhuiyan said he still has fears he’ll be attacked again, particularly when he sees men with tattoos. Stroman had many. “I try to ignore them (fears), but I am a human being,” he said.
Bhuiyan is one of eight children, but he has no siblings or relatives in the United States. He and his former fiancée in Bangladesh went separate ways as he coped with his physical and psychological wounds. His parents wanted him to return home, but he “wanted to give it a fight.” And last November, he deepened his roots here by becoming a U.S. citizen.
He has prepared a petition drive for the stay of execution and is about to launch a website.
“You may not like me because of my skin color or because of my accent . . . but don’t hate me. We can educate people.”