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2011-07-19

Muslim Victim of Post-9/11 Hate Crime Calls on Texas to Spare Life of His Assailant

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Rais Bhuiyan, campaigning for clemency for the man who shot him at point-blank range in a drug-fueled, post-9/11 hate crime in Texas.

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In Texas, a hate crime victim is attempting to save the life of a convicted murderer who shot him in the face at close range after 9/11. Rais Bhuiyan is suing Governor Rick Perry in order to stop the execution of death row prisoner Mark Stroman scheduled for Wednesday. Stroman shot Bhuiyan in 2001, partially blinding him in his right eye. Stroman, an Aryan Brotherhood member, also killed Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan. "I strongly believe what Mark Stroman did was a hate crime because of his ignorance, and he was not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Otherwise, he would not have done what he did,” Bhuiyan said. “The way my parents raised me, and my Islamic faith teaches me, that he is the best who can forgive easily. And my faith teaches that no one has a right to take another human life. Islam doesn’t allow for hate and killing.” In a statement written in prison, Stroman says, “Not only do I have all My friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now i have The Islamic Community Joining in ... Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Un-forgiveable ... that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together." [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Texas, where a hate crime victim is attempting to save the life of a convicted murderer who shot him in the face, as well, at close range after 9/11. Rais Bhuiyan is suing Governor Rick Perry in order to stop the execution of death row prisoner Mark Stroman. He’s scheduled to die on Wednesday.

Stroman shot Bhuiyan in 2001, partially blinding him in his right eye. Stroman, an Aryan Brotherhood member, also killed Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan. Stroman’s half-sister was killed in the attack on the twin towers, and he claimed her death fueled his rampage. The killings happened just a few days after September 11th.

Bhuiyan is now calling on Perry to heed his demand for mercy and lower Stroman’s punishment to life in prison, arguing the attack was rooted in ignorance. As a devout American Muslim, Bhuiyan told reporters his faith led him to advocate for mercy, not vengeance.

In a typed letter from death row, Mark Stroman responded to a New York Times reporter’s question about his final thoughts as he awaits execution. This is what he wrote—we have not edited the original response—quote: "Not only do I have all My friends and supporters trying to Save my Life, but now i have The Islamic Community Joining in ... Spearheaded by one Very Remarkable man Named Rais Bhuiyan, Who is a Survivor of My Hate. His deep Islamic Beliefs Have gave him the strength to Forgive the Un-forgiveable ...that is truly Inspiring to me, and should be an Example for us all. The Hate, has to stop, we are all in this world together." Those are the words of Mark Stroman, scheduled to die on Wednesday.

For more, we’re joined by one of his victims, Rais Bhuiyan—Rais Bhuiyan, who was in a convenience store when Mark Stroman walked in and shot him directly, at point-blank range, in the face.

Rais, thank you very much for being with us. How can you find it in yourself to campaign for clemency for the man who killed others and shot you?

RAIS BHUIYAN: Well, thank you very much for having me on your show.

Well, I strongly believe what Mark Stroman did, that it was hate—I mean, that it was hate crime because of his ignorance, and he was not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong. Otherwise, he would not have done what he did. The way my parents raised me, and my Islamic faith teaches me, that he is the best who can forgive easily. And my faith teaches that no one has a right to take another human life. Islam doesn’t allow for hate and killing. All this kind of thing encouraged me not only to forgive Mark Stroman and also do something more to save this human life, because what Mark Stroman did, that it was hate crime, and now it is—we see crime all over the world, based on color, sex—I mean, color, sexual orientation, nationality and faith. So his execution will not eradicate hate crimes from this world. But if he’s executed, we’ll simply lose a human life without dealing with the root cause, which is hate. So that’s what encouraged me to come forward and run this campaign.

AMY GOODMAN: Rais, describe what happened 10 days after 9/11, September 11, 2001. What was the exact date that you were shot?

RAIS BHUIYAN: Well, it was September 21st, 2001. It was Friday, around 12:30, noon. I was working in a gas station. Suddenly, a customer came inside wearing bandana, sunglasses, baseball cap, and pointing a gun directly at my face. From my previous robbery experience, I thought that would be another robbery, so I offered him cash and requested him not to shoot me. In response, he asked me, "Where are you from?" And as soon as he asked me that question, I feel cold air flow through my spinal cord, and I thought, "He is not here for money. He is here for something else." And that question seemed strange to ask during a robbery. So I replied, "Excuse me?"

As soon as I spoke, I felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face and then heard an explosion. I was not sure if he shot me or I was going through hallucination. I looked down, and I saw blood was pouring like an open faucet from the right side of my head. Images of my mother, my father, other siblings and my fiancée appeared before my eyes, and then a graveyard. I looked left, and I saw the gunman was still standing and looking at me. I thought, "If I don’t pretend I’m dying, he will shoot me again." So I jumped on the floor. And I remember screaming, "Mom!" And I was reciting from Holy Quran all the verses I have memorized, and I was asking God for His mercy to save my life.

AMY GOODMAN: And then what happened?

RAIS BHUIYAN: And I was thinking that "Maybe I’m dying today. This is the end of my life." And I was crying. I was reciting Quran. And I thought I have to stay positive, I have to stay active and keep my hope that God is watching me, and He knows what He’s going to do, so I have to stay focused. And I grabbed the phone, and as soon as Mark left the store, I came outside, with the thinking that if I stay inside and if I pass out, I may not get any help, but if I go in the parking lot, there might be some help. So I grabbed the phone, ran to the next door, which was a barber store. And once I entered, those folks, they were so scared, they tried to escape through their emergency door. Later on, they told me they thought the killer was coming behind me as I entered their store by running. So I captured one of them, and I said, "Please call 911." And he called.

That was the first time I looked at myself in the mirror. And I was—I was shocked by seeing myself, that just couple of minutes before, I was a beautiful young man, and now I look like a horror film, all those characters, full of blood on my face and my body. And I was thinking that maybe I’m dying today. I was very scared. I came back to the parking lot. I was running back and forth for the ambulance. Within a few minutes, the ambulance came to the parking lot. I ran towards that. And the paramedics, they were surprised seeing me running towards them, because they said later on that they thought they will be seeing some body on the floor, and they have to go with a stretcher. But rather, I was running toward them. They were surprised. And I was taken to the hospital.

AMY GOODMAN: Rais Bhuiyan, have you gotten to speak to Mark Stroman on death row?

RAIS BHUIYAN: I never got any chance to talk to him directly.

AMY GOODMAN: If you could, what would you say to him right now, scheduled to die on Wednesday?

RAIS BHUIYAN: Well, I will look directly at his eyes, if I get the chance to talk to him, and I will say that I was never angry at him, I never hated him. He is another human being like me, and I do not hate him.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you address the Governor of Texas or the Board of Pardons and Parole? You are a victim.

RAIS BHUIYAN: Yes, I’m the only survivor of Mark Stroman’s hate crime, what he did in 2001 because of World Trade Center tragedy in New York City. Governor Perry said in one of his statements that April 10 to 16, 2011, will be the victims’ rights week. He asked all the fellow Texans to join this effort to listen to the victim and help them whenever possible. I’d like to ask Honorable Governor Perry, that I’m a victim of this hate crime. Please listen to my request. Let me have a mediation dialogue with my offender, a meaningful—

AMY GOODMAN: We must leave it there, Rais Bhuiyan. Thank you so much for joining us.

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