Activist offers story of forgiveness
On Sept. 21, 2001, 10 days after terrorist attacks changed the U.S. forever, a totally different kind of change was born in Dallas, Texas.
Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladesh immigrant, was shot in the face with a double-barreled shotgun at a distance of four feet while working at his gas station.
Bhuiyan spoke about that horrifying experience, and his life in the years that followed, at Lansing Community College on Thursday, Jan. 14 as part of a One Book #OneLCC presentation.
The survival of Bhuiyan is what many would describe as a miracle. His subsequent forgiveness of the shooter and attempt to halt his execution was talked about across the world.
During his lecture at LCC, Bhuiyan described the events that occurred in his life starting with that fateful day: Sept. 21, 2001.
Mark Stroman was a white supremacist from Texas who developed a self-described hatred toward Muslims and Arabs after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In the 10 days following the attacks, Stroman set out on a shooting spree targeting Arabs, killing two and injuring Bhuiyan.
After Bhuiyan was shot, Stroman stood over his body, waiting to make sure he died.
“I looked on the floor and I saw blood was pouring like a faucet out of the right side of my head,” Bhuiyan said. “Then I looked up and saw that the gunman was still standing over me, and I thought that if I didn’t pretend to be dead, he would shoot me again, so I fell back on the floor and he left.”
When asked about the shooting spree after his arrest, Stroman said he performed what many Americans wanted to do, but didn’t have the courage to carry out. He called himself a patriot and said he should be honored.
How could somebody in Bhuiyan’s position forgive a person with seemingly no remorse for trying to take his life? He said it happened after he began to realize Stroman was a human suffering, just like himself.
“Instead of hating him, I started seeing him as a human being like me,” Bhuiyan said. “I saw him as a victim, too.”
Bhuiyan, a Muslim who describes his belief in God as “strong,” started advocating for Stroman’s life to be spared.
“I realized if we kill Mark Stroman, we are simply losing human life,” he said. “He’s a human being like me, and I thought if he was given a second chance – even behind bars – he might become a better person and do something positive.”
As the years went by and Bhuiyan relayed his forgiveness, Stroman said he had a change of heart. And as he wrote letters to Bhuiyan expressing his remorse, and offering gratitude for his forgiveness, Bhuiyan continued to lobby for Stroman’s life. He even hired attorneys on Stroman’s behalf in an effort to halt the execution.
Ultimately, Stroman was put to death by lethal injection on July 20, 2011. Prior to his death, Stroman gave a statement to the media, telling the world how Bhuiyan changed his life.
“It is due to Rais’s message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been,” Stroman said in part of the statement.
Bhuiyan’s message of forgiveness and love did not stop with Stroman’s death, however. He lobbied in front of European parliaments and advocated to the company that manufactured the injection dose that was used on Stroman.
That manufacturer, Lundbeck, Inc., discontinued the sale of its product to corrections departments in the United States. Bhuiyan said that has resulted in a shortage of lethal injection doses in the country.
Bhuiyan eventually started sharing his story and presenting his message to others across the country. He started an organization called “World Without Hate” in 2011 that seeks to spread love and peace.
He said one of his main objectives is educating the nation’s youth on his notion of forgiveness. He speaks at schools and colleges around the world and started a leadership program that trains 12 to 18 year olds to start forgiveness friend groups.
“In 20 or 30 years, the youth right now will be leading this country,” he said.
Much attention has been brought to Bhuiyan and his story. He has appeared in news stories and TV shows from some of the most popular media.
That led to Bhuiyan’s appearance at LCC. A book that was written about the shooting, “The True American” by Anand Giridharadas, was chosen as the featured book for LCC’s current One Book #OneLCC discussion.
For more information on One Book #OneLCC, visit www.lcc.edu/library/about/events/onebook.
To learn more about Rais Bhuiyan and his organization, visit www.worldwithouthope.org/