Who is Rais Bhuiyan?
One of the best ambassadors of Islam
Rais Bhuiyan is an ordinary man but an extraordinary human being and one of the finest ambassadors of Islam. He has an inspiring story of forgiveness, compassion, hope and love to share with all of you. It took root in Bangladesh and grew from the seeds planted by his parents and flourished with his strong Islamic beliefs in forgiveness. Just weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, a masked man stormed into the Dallas convenience store where Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim immigrant from Bangladesh, worked as a cashier. He asked where Bhuiyan was from -- then shot him in the face at point-blank range before he could reply.
His attacker was Mark Stroman, a white supremacist who was apprehended and confessed to shooting Rais and two other South Asian workers. The other two innocent victims of hate died while Rais survived. He was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face. Responding with hate and anger would be justified, but Rais chose the high road and mounted an aggressive campaign to convince Texas authorities to reduce Stroman's sentence from execution to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
After those efforts were met with no response from Texas officials, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that his rights as a crime victim to meet with his attacker had been unjustly denied. That lawsuit was moved from state to federal court. His request was denied.
In an interview with HuffPost, Bhuiyan said his efforts on behalf of Stroman were motivated by his Muslim faith. The Koran teaches that those who forsake retribution and forgive those who have wronged them become closer to God, he said. "My faith teaches me that saving a life is like saving the entire human race.”
Rais was disappointed because his efforts to spare his attacker’s life were not fulfilled but at least one mind was changed by Bhuiyan's outreach -- his attacker's. Rais‘s attempts to spare Stroman’s life showed him that kindness and compassion are more powerful than hate.
"It is due to Rais' message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been," Stroman said in the interview with the documentary filmmaker, prior to his execution. "If I don't make it, I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced. We need to make sure there is not another Mark Stroman," he concluded.
Rais continues his work around the world and within his community through his campaign called “World without Hate” and urges people to “Practice compassion, forgiveness and healing.” Rais has spoken in Washington D.C. at the Search for Common Ground, American University and the CAIR annual banquet. He will be speaking in Rome, Italy this month before joining us on December 11th for our peace convention.