Ten years ago, Rais Bhuiyan was living his dream. Having recently emigrated from Bangladesh, Bhuiyan was enrolled in classes and became a partner at a new gas station in Dallas, Texas. But two weeks after September 11, 2001, a man walked into the mini-mart where Bhuiyan was working and asked him where he was from. The man then shot Bhuiyan in the face.
Bhuiyan was the only surviving victim of Mark Stroman’s hate driven shooting spree, which took the lives of Vasudev Patel, originally from India, and Waqar Hasan, a native of Pakistan. Stroman was sentenced to death for the murders.
Meanwhile, Bhuiyan endured years of painful surgeries. He lost the vision in his right eye and still has more than 35 pellets in his face. But despite the trauma to him and his family, Bhuiyan is now fighting to save Stroman’s life.
“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,” Bhuiyan told Laura Sullivan of NPR’s All Things Considered. “I strongly believe that executing him is not a solution. We will just simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate crime.”
Stroman, a white supremacist with a long history of crime, reportedly broke down in tears when he learned of Bhuiyan’s efforts and said, “This is the first act of kindness that I’ve ever known.”
Bhuiyan said he drew on his Muslim faith to forgive Stroman, and is campaigning with Amnesty International to have Stroman’s death penalty commuted. Bhuiyan is working with Stroman’s defense attorney and hopes to meet with Texas Gov. Rick Perty and Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, both supporters of the death penalty, ahead of Stroman’s July 20 execution date. Waqar Hasan’s family have also publicly supported Bhuiyan’s efforts, and Hasan’s wife, a widowed mother of four, submitted a notarized letter to Watkins, asking to commute the death sentence.
What an amazing story!!! But its hardly the only one. The Forgiveness Project has chronicled dozens of others. THIS is the human potential we could all strive towards. And how appropriate for our times in the US that it comes from someone of the Muslim faith. Today I am thankful for the life of Rais Bhuiyan - and what he has to teach us all about the very real power of an act of kindness.