I barely had time to begin digesting the details of the story of Anders Behring Breivik, Norway’s own better looking Timothy McVeigh, who slaughtered 92 people last week, when I turn on my computer to find another headline about someone killing his estranged wife and four others at a Texas roller rink, a story overshadowed, of course, by Amy Winehouse joining Janis, Jimi, and Kurt in the “27 Club,” and then there was something in the corner of my screen about an 8 year old boy being hung from the ceiling.
It’s enough to make anyone despair.
And then – and then – there’s the case of Rais Bhuiyan.
Bhuiyan is a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh whose life was forever altered on the night of October 4, 2001, when Mark Stroman paid him a visit at the Texas convenience store where Bhuiyan worked as a clerk.
Stroman, an avowed white supremacist who dubbed himself “the Arab Slayer,” described as “patriotic” the actions he took following 9/11 when he shot and killed two South Asian men and injured a third, Bhuiyan.
Stroman shot Bhuiyan in the face, blinding him in one eye.
Just another story of pointless hate and mayhem, right?
How did Bhuiyan react when “the Arab Slayer” took his eye? Was it “eye for an eye” time? No. It was not.
Bhuiyan first filed an online petition asking Texas authorities to commute Stroman’s sentence from death to life in prison without parole. When that went nowhere, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state arguing that his religious beliefs as a Muslim told him to forgive Stroman.
“Killing him is not the solution,” said Bhuiyan. “He’s learning from his mistake. If he’s given a chance, he’ll be able to reach out to others and spread that message to others.” A federal judge in Austin rejected the suit and Bhuiyan’s request for an injunction stopping Stroman’s lethal injection. Bhuiyan’s lawyers appealed the ruling all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where – surprise, surprise – Antonin “Mr. Compassion” Scalia turned it down.
At 8:53 p.m., Wednesday, Stroman was pronounced dead by Texas correctional authorities. Apparently Stroman had been successfully corrected.
Bhuiyan is a national hero to me, one of the few countervailing forces out there to all the bile and hate and bloodlust. This man’s story should be plastered all over the news.
Let’s recap: the man was shot in the face and blinded, and not only did he forgive Stroman, he fought to save his life.
By all accounts, Bhuiyan’s unbelievable magnanimity had a profound effect on Stroman. In an interview last week with a documentary filmmaker, Stroman said that Bhuiyan’s efforts helped him overcome the rage that consumed much of his life.
“In the free world, I was free but locked in a prison inside myself because of the hate I carried in my heart,” said Stroman. “It is due to Rais’ message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been.”
More content than he’s ever been, days before his state-sanctioned murder.
His final words: “I love you, all of you. Goodnight.”
I will be the first in line when that documentary comes out.
All hail Bhuiyan.