‘The Moral High Ground’: 9/11 Hate Crime Victim Rais Bhuiyan Fights to Save his Attacker from Execution
In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, Texas white supremacist Mark Stroman had one thing on his mind– killing Muslims. With a heart full of hate and a shotgun full of shells, Stroman went on a Dalls-area killing spree, murdering two convenience store workers and attempting to kill a third.
According to NPR, Rais Bhuiyan was working at a Dallas gas station when Stroman stormed in with his shotgun. Bhuiyan thought it was a “routine” robbery. “I opened the cash register, offered him the cash, and requested him not to shoot me,” he recalled on All Things Considered. “In reply, he asked me, ‘Where are you from?’ And the question seemed strange to ask during a robbery. And I said ‘Excuse me?’ And as soon as I spoke, I felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face, and then heard an explosion.”
It turns out the ignorant Stroman shot three South Asians, coincidentally “getting lucky” by killing Pakistani Waqar Hasan and Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi, both of whom were Muslims. His other victim, Vasudev Patel, was Indian.
Bhuiyan needed medical attention for years after his literal face-to-face encounter with a high-powered shotgun. His right eye was mangled beyond repair and he still has 35 shotgun pellets in his face. When his father learned of the attack, he suffered a stroke. “My entire family– it was another trauma for them,” he explained to NPR.
Stroman, a member of the notorious Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, made obscene gestures to Patel’s grieving family members during his murder trial. He was sentenced to die for the murders of Patel and Hasan.
But Stroman has an unlikely advocate as he tries to slip the executioner’s noose. Rais Bhuiyan might not be able to see clearly out of both eyes, but he certainly sees that executing his attacker is the wrong way to go about achieving justice.
“According to my faith in Islam, there is no hate, no killing. It doesn’t allow anything like that,” Bhuiyan explained to NPR, obviously interpreting his religion quite differently from the extremists who seem to grab all the headlines in the Western media. “Yes, Mark Stroman did a horrible thing, and he brought a lot of pain and disaster, sufferings in my life. But in return I never hated him.”
Incredibly, Waqar Hasan’s family is standing with Bhuiyan as he tried to get Stroman’s death sentence commuted. According to Color Lines, Hasan’s wife, a mother of four, has written to Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins asking him to commute the sentence. Bhuiyan has started a website called World Without Hate to inform and educate others about hate crimes, hoping to prevent future attacks. He’s also involved with Amnesty International and Stroman’s defense team as they appeal his death sentence.
They’ve got their work cut out for them. Texas’ Republican Governor Rick Perry has presided over the executions of more people than any other governor in modern history, and Dallas County D.A. Watkins is also a strong supporter of capital punishment. But Bhuiyan isn’t deterred.
“I strongly believe executing him is not a solution,” he told NPR. “We will just simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate crime. In Islam it says that saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind. Since I forgave him, all those principles encouraged me to go even further, and stop his execution and save another human life.”
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