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‘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.”

(Photo: Rais Bhuiyan/NPR)

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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One Comment

  1. Dudley SHarpJuly 17, 2011 at 10:52 amReply

    None of Mr. Bhuiyan’s efforts, inclusive of his baseless lawsuit against Gov. Perry and the Parole Board, should result in Stroman’s commutation.

    The real goal is to publicize another anti death penalty effort, which will have little effect on the discussion.

    Some points:

    Has Mr. Bhuiyan avoided the obvious?

    Has anyone (the media or Bhuiyan?) confirmed any of Stroman’s claims, that his parents treated him in a horrible way or that his half sister was murdered on 9/11 in the World Trade Center attack?

    False claims by death row murderers and their supporters are quite common. Let’s try to fact check the claims. The claims, if true, offer no excuse for Stroman’s crimes.

    The greatest violator of vicitm’s rights in this case is Stroman.

    The only one exhibiting hate in this case is Stroman. His hatred resulted in him murdering two innocent people and the attempted murder of Mr. Bhuiyan, based upon his hatred of Muslims, a hatred allegedly hightened by the 9/11 attacks.

    Mr. Bhuiyan has forgiven Stroman for that attempted murder.

    Such forgiveness is important.

    For clear reasons, both Gov. Perry and the parole board should reject Mr. Bhuiyan’s petition to commute Stroman’s death sentence to a life sentence.

    Considering Mr. Bhuiyan’s position, the commutation request should be rejected, because the foundation for Stroman’s death sentence is justice, not hatred.

    Mr. Bhuiyan has, simply, invented that the death sentence was based in hatred, just as many other anti death penalty activists do. Therefore, there is not foundation for the commutation request, as it is wrongly based upon false allegation of hatred. (1)

    Mr. Bhuiyan’s believes that his forgiveness should provide enough to commute Stroman’s sentence to life.

    First, Stroman is not on death row for the attempted murder of Buiyan, but for the capital murder of Vasudev Patel.

    In addition:

    1) Mr. Bhuiyan has the moral authority to forgive Stroman for the attempted murder. Mr. Bhuiyan does not have the moral authority to forgive for crimes committed against others.

    2) Anyone can forgive someone for the crimes committed against themselves and still find that a proper sanction, justice, is appropriate in that case.

    3) Importantly, forgiveness cannot preclude punishment. In fact, punishment can be an important part of forgiveness.

    Both parties, the victim and the perpetrator, can give and seek forgiveness, respectively, and both can understand that a proper sanction should be a part of the forgiveness process. The criminal should take responsibility for their crimes, confess to them, accept the sanction given and seek forgiveness based upon true sorrow and repentance.

    Hopefully, that is what Stroman will do.

    4) The only one who can forgive the perpetrator for the crime is the victim of that crime. Stroman’s two murder victims cannot offer their forgiveness. They’re dead. Mr. Bhuiyan asserts that the families of Stroman’s two murder victims back his efforts and also forgive Stroman. Has that been confirmed and do all family members agree?

    As Mr. Bhuiyan’s commutation efforts are solely founded on the wrongful charge of hatred and his erroneous understanding of forgiveness, both offer no foundation for commutation.

    As time goes by, it is clear that Mr. Bhuiyan’s crusade is, strictly, an anti death penalty effort.

    Mr. Bhuiyan’s is not trying to end all sanctions against Stroman, but is making a plea to commute Stroman’s death sentence to a life sentence – meaning that Mr. Bhuiyan does understand that sanction and forgiveness have no conflict and that hatred need have no connection to sanction, as is evident in this case and realized by Mr. Bhuiyan.

    The death penalty is given by juries for the same reason lesser sanctions are, that is that they are a just, appropriate and proportional sanction for the crime committed. (2)

    There are, more solid reasons to deny commutation in this case, but I was only addressing Mr. Bhuiyan’s effort.

    Stroman’s crimes

    Stroman, a white supremist, additionally, confessed to the Sept. 15, 2001 Dallas murder of Wagar Hasan, an immigrant and Pakistani Muslim. The two murders and the attempted murder were all hate crimes, committed from September 15, 2001 to October 4, 2001, based upon Stroman seeking revenge against Muslims for the 9/11 attacks.

    Stroman, previously, served a two year sentence for one count of burglary of a building and one count of theft of property; released on parole in absentia; returned from parole in absentia with an 8 year sentence from Dallas County for two counts of credit card abuse and one count of robbery; released on parole on 08/26/1991.

    Thank you for your consideration. With these cases, there are very weighty issues to reflect upon.

    1) “The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge”
    http://homicidesurvivors.com/2009/07/20/the-death-penalty-neither-hatred-nor-revenge.aspx

    2) “Death Penalty Support: Christian and secular Scholars”
    http://prodpinnc.blogspot.com/2009/07/death-penalty-support-modern-catholic.html

    NOTE Any violation of vicitm’s rights should be condemned, with a pursuit of remedy, inclusive of legal action, if merited.

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