A few days after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the US, Mark Stroman shot three men working in Dallas area convenience stores who he believed were Muslims.
Carrying a double-barrelled shotgun, he walked into a petrol station where Rais Bhuyian, a Bangladeshi-born naturalised US citizen worked.
He asked Bhuyian where he came from. As Bhuyian recalled, “That is a strange question to ask in a robbery. As soon as I said, ‘Excuse me,’ I heard an explosion and felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face.”
The gunshot left Rais Bhuyian blind in his right eye.
Stroman killed two other men in convenience stores, namely, Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan. Stroman was sentenced to death for Patel’s murder.
He blamed the shootings on the loss of a sister in the collapse of one of the World Trade Centre towers, although prosecutors said in court documents that there was no firm evidence that she ever existed.
At the time of the attacks, Stroman was free on bond for a gun possession arrest. He had previous convictions for burglary, robbery, theft and credit card abuse, served at least two prison terms and was paroled twice.
He had been involved in an armed robbery at the age of just 12, and was a meth addict. He told authorities he belonged to the ‘Aryan Brotherhood,’ a white supremacist prison gang.
As he played dead until his attacker left, Bhuyian made a promise to Allah that he would make the hajj pilgrimage.
While in Mecca, he thought more deeply about the attack and decided what he would try to do. “If I can forgive my offender who tried to take my life, we can all work together to forgive each other and move forward and take a new narrative on the 10th anniversary of September 11.”
He fought to save his attacker from the death sentence by starting an online petition. Stroman realised his mistake.
“I had some poor upbringing and I grabbed some ideas which was ignorance, you know, and hate is pure ignorance. I no longer want hate. No matter what I do or say is going to change the fact that even you are going to view the Muslims as suspect.
“If you get on the airplane and you see one, you might not be wanting to, but you are going to watch that person. We live in different times now, but it is not right to stereotype them and I am the first to admit I did that.”
Bhuyian argued, “He did what he did, but now he is a different person, and can talk to the people – those who are as ignorant as him – so there is a chance we can live in a better society. Execution is not a solution in this case.”
Stroman was executed by lethal injection on July 20, 2011.