Rais Bhuiyan and the Power of Forgiveness


Click above to see the story of Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi Muslim man who was shot and grievously wounded during a post-9/11 shooting spree.

You may remember that immediately following the attacks on September 11, a white supremacist named Mark Stroman shot and killed two men: Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani on September 15 and Vasudev Patel, an immigrant from India, on October 4. Bhuiyan was the only one to survive this rampage – he was shot and wounded on September 21. All of the attacks took place in Dallas gas stations and convenience stores.

The powerful twist to this story: Bhuiyan has forgiven Stroman, and is now pleading for a stay of his execution, which is scheduled to take place on July 20.

From Bhuiyan’s website, “World Without Hate:”

There are three reasons I feel this way. The first is because of what I learned from my parents. They raised me with the religious principle that he is best who can forgive easily. The second reason is because of what I believe as a Muslim, which is that human lives are precious and that no one has the right to take another human’s life. In my faith, forgiveness is the best policy and Islam doesn’t allow for hate and killing. And, finally, I seek solace for the wives and children of Mr. Hasan and Mr. Patel, who are also victims in this tragedy. Executing Stroman is not what they want, either. They have already suffered so much; it will only cause more suffering if he is executed.

In another extraordinary twist to this story, Mark Stroman himself has become the subject of a documentary that Israeli filmmaker Ilan Ziv has been working on for the past seven years.


Following a confessed killer and a self-described racist seemed like an odd choice for a film, let alone for a film that would take years to make. But there was something in Mark that caught my attention. There was something beyond the facade of tattoos and the “red neck” talk. Even seven years ago I could detect certain vulnerabilities, warmth and intelligence that did not fit the image of a serial killer, “a monster” as the prosecutor tried to portray him.

Over the years I interviewed Mark’s relatives, friends and his victims but most of all I kept in touch with Mark. I helped him out when I could, corresponded with him. and visited him a few times with a camera but many more times without.

I created a website, Execution Chronicles, where Mark began to post weekly blogs. In the past 3 years, Mark posted over 151 blogs, which are a testimony to his growth and development. In retrospect, what seemed odd at the time has paid off. Mark as changed considerably and has become quite thoughtful and insightful about his own past and racist views.

I’ve been fairly open about my faith in the healing power of forgiveness – as well as my moral views on the death penalty. I urge you to join me in signing Rais Bhuiyan’s petition to Texas governor Rick Perry to grant a stay of execution to Mark Stroman. I do believe that ending yet another life will only magnify further the hate and violence that has marked this tragic story. Bhiuyan and Ziv are showing us a different way – we’d do well to follow their moral example.

(h/t: Anya Cordell)

11 thoughts on “Rais Bhuiyan and the Power of Forgiveness

  1. Anne Ryan

    Many blessings on those who really understand the teachings on forgiveness which cross lines of exclusivity and bring us together.
    My these men be spared needless and vengeful death and be brought to the status of teachers . All earning comes from experience.

  2. Anya Cordell

    Ilan Ziv’s documentary-in-progress has taken on a new focus with the extraordinary story of Rais’ arduous efforts to heal our wounded world. Whatever happens on July 2oth, the film can continue to play a profound role in changing perceptions, contradicting the stereotype we are continually given of Muslims is as violent and vengeful.

    You can play a role by helping support the completion of the documentary; which is now posted as a project on the website, Kickstarter.com

    There, you can see a clip of the documentary, share the link, (click on Like, and then Share to post on Facebook), or send it to your own email contacts. The documentary, once finished, will do so much to disseminate this important and moving story. Please visit:
    Also see, http://www.worldwithouthate.org
    http://www.Appearance-ism.com to learn of my ongoing work re. these issues

  3. Dave

    1/ If what we are talking about is ‘forgiveness’ then shouldn’t the request be that Stroman be released completely?

    2/ Are you sure that decades (I’m assuming) in a maximum security prison in Texas is better than execution?

    3/ Are you really convinced that Stroman has changed or is merely acting? And how would you know?

    1. Rabbi Brant Rosen Post author

      1. Forgiveness does not negate holding others accountable for their actions. On the contrary, accountability is a necessary component of forgiveness. Bhuiyan is not asking for Stroman to be released – he is asking for him to be held accountable for his actions by being sentenced to life without parole.

      2. I’m not sure what you mean by “better,” but for those of us who oppose capital punishment, we certainly believe life without parole is more just than another taking of a life.

      3. No, I’m not convinced. There are certainly others (i.e. Bhuiyan and Ziv) who are in better position to judge this than me.

  4. Mary

    @ “2/ Are you sure that decades (I’m assuming) in a maximum security prison in Texas is better than execution?”

    If you were on death row, which would you prefer?

  5. Anya Cordell

    Surprisingly to us, perhaps, Mark Stroman and others on death row want to live, even knowing they will live in prison, forever. Stroman has expressed shock and gratitude for what Rais is doing; and yes, according to Ilan and Mark’s own writing, he is changed (albeit, with his Texas swagger intact). He has now experienced the most incredible example of unconditional love possible, from the man he tried to kill. This has to be impactful; and Ilan, who has met him numerous times, assures me that Mark is transformed. Rais’ efforts are such an incredible example to us of what healing looks like. Whatever happens on July 20th, Ilan’s documentary can have tremendous impact, particularly when Muslims are so universally maligned and stereotyped as inherently vengeful and violent. I hope you’ll go to the Kickstarter link and make a small pledge so the documentary by award-winning filmmaker Ziv, can be completed, and share this story and link with others. http://www.kickstarter.com/pro​jects/1065206485/execution-chr​onicles

  6. Dudley Sharp

    To: The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and
    Texas Governor Rick Perry

    Re: Commutation considerations, Texas death row inmate Mark Stroman

    Subject: A Matter of Forgiveness

    From: Dudley Sharp, 713-622-5491

    Rais Bhuiyan is campaigning to have Texas death row inmate Mark Stroman’s death sentence commuted. Mark Stroman attempted to murder Mr. Bhuiyan.

    None of Mr. Bhuiyan’s efforts, inclusive of his baseless lawsuit against Gov. Perry and the Parole Board, should result in Stroman’s commutation.

    The real goal is to publicize another anti death penalty effort, which will have little effect on the discussion.

    Some points:

    Has Mr. Bhuiyan avoided the obvious?

    Has anyone (the media or Bhuiyan?) confirmed any of Stroman’s claims, that his parents treated him in a horrible way or that his half sister was murdered on 9/11 in the World Trade Center attack?

    False claims by death row murderers and their supporters are quite common. Let’s try to fact check the claims. The claims, if true, offer no excuse for Stroman’s crimes.

    The greatest violator of vicitm’s rights in this case is Stroman.

    The only one exhibiting hate in this case is Stroman. His hatred resulted in him murdering two innocent people and the attempted murder of Mr. Bhuiyan, based upon his hatred of Muslims, a hatred allegedly hightened by the 9/11 attacks.

    Mr. Bhuiyan has forgiven Stroman for that attempted murder.

    Such forgiveness is important.

    For clear reasons, both Gov. Perry and the parole board should reject Mr. Bhuiyan’s petition to commute Stroman’s death sentence to a life sentence.

    Considering Mr. Bhuiyan’s position, the commutation request should be rejected, because the foundation for Stroman’s death sentence is justice, not hatred.

    Mr. Bhuiyan has, simply, invented that the death sentence was based in hatred, just as many other anti death penalty activists do. Therefore, there is not foundation for the commutation request, as it is wrongly based upon false allegation of hatred. (1)

    Mr. Bhuiyan’s believes that his forgiveness should provide enough to commute Stroman’s sentence to life.

    First, Stroman is not on death row for the attempted murder of Buiyan, but for the capital murder of Vasudev Patel.

    In addition:

    1) Mr. Bhuiyan has the moral authority to forgive Stroman for the attempted murder. Mr. Bhuiyan does not have the moral authority to forgive for crimes committed against others.

    2) Anyone can forgive someone for the crimes committed against themselves and still find that a proper sanction, justice, is appropriate in that case.

    3) Importantly, forgiveness cannot preclude punishment. In fact, punishment can be an important part of forgiveness.

    Both parties, the victim and the perpetrator, can give and seek forgiveness, respectively, and both can understand that a proper sanction should be a part of the forgiveness process. The criminal should take responsibility for their crimes, confess to them, accept the sanction given and seek forgiveness based upon true sorrow and repentance.

    Hopefully, that is what Stroman will do.

    4) The only one who can forgive the perpetrator for the crime is the victim of that crime. Stroman’s two murder victims cannot offer their forgiveness. They’re dead. Mr. Bhuiyan asserts that the families of Stroman’s two murder victims back his efforts and also forgive Stroman. Has that been confirmed and do all family members agree?

    As Mr. Bhuiyan’s commutation efforts are solely founded on the wrongful charge of hatred and his erroneous understanding of forgiveness, both offer no foundation for commutation.

    As time goes by, it is clear that Mr. Bhuiyan’s crusade is, strictly, an anti death penalty effort.

    Mr. Bhuiyan’s is not trying to end all sanctions against Stroman, but is making a plea to commute Stroman’s death sentence to a life sentence – meaning that Mr. Bhuiyan does understand that sanction and forgiveness have no conflict and that hatred need have no connection to sanction, as is evident in this case and realized by Mr. Bhuiyan.

    The death penalty is given by juries for the same reason lesser sanctions are, that is that they are a just, appropriate and proportional sanction for the crime committed. (2)

    There are, more solid reasons to deny commutation in this case, but I was only addressing Mr. Bhuiyan’s effort.

    Stroman’s crimes

    Stroman, a white supremist, additionally, confessed to the Sept. 15, 2001 Dallas murder of Wagar Hasan, an immigrant and Pakistani Muslim. The two murders and the attempted murder were all hate crimes, committed from September 15, 2001 to October 4, 2001, based upon Stroman seeking revenge against Muslims for the 9/11 attacks.

    Stroman, previously, served a two year sentence for one count of burglary of a building and one count of theft of property; released on parole in absentia; returned from parole in absentia with an 8 year sentence from Dallas County for two counts of credit card abuse and one count of robbery; released on parole on 08/26/1991.

    Thank you for your consideration. With these cases, there are very weighty issues to reflect upon.

    1) “The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge”

    2) “Death Penalty Support: Christian and secular Scholars”

    NOTE Any violation of vicitm’s rights should be condemned, with a pursuit of remedy, inclusive of legal action, if merited.

  7. Dahn Shaulis, Ph.D.

    Dudley Sharp has been discredited as an expert on the Death Penalty. He is a pro-Death Penalty zealot posing as an expert. Mr. Sharp continues to believe in his position despite a growing body of evidence that the Death Penalty creates a brutalization effect–that is, imposition of state-sponsored killing endangers innocents and police officers.

  8. dudleysharpDudley SHarp

    Dahn Shaulis is a silly fellow who has been following me around the web for years, challenging me on various points, with our exchanges always ending with me supplying all of the detailed information and with Dahn only supplying harassment, not contribution, just as he exhibits, here.

    These exchanges end with the confirmation that anti death penalty claims are either false or that pro death penalty positions are stronger, as detailed herein.

    These got so embarrassing for Dahn that he started changing his posting names, which were Dahn Shaulis, aka Vegas Quixote, Jurinne, vegasquixote, theamericaninjusticesystem, happyseaotter, anonymous, as well as others.

    Here is one of our many exchanges, below, where I fully answered his inquiries, which Dahn said I could not answer. He made no contributions to the discussion and makes zero contributions to death penalty knowledge, as is his MO.


    Regarding brutalization, Dahn, again, doesn’t seem to have any understanding of the topics he mentions, as our exchange showed, here:


  9. jlseagull

    I recently discovered this story and was blown away again by the power of forgiveness and what can happen people reach out to each other in love. Thank you for your wonderful work!


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