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On Wednesday, July 20, convicted Texas killer Mark Stroman will be executed – unless a campaign by the most unlikely of champions succeeds in winning a stay, and possibly commutation of his sentence to life behind bars.
That champion is a soft-spoken, yet determined Muslim man – the only survivor of three convenience store clerks shot by Stroman, then a white supremacist seeking revenge for his sister’s death during the 9/11 terror attacks a decade ago.
The irony is mind-blowing: Islamic extremists tried to bring America to its knees when they hijacked four jet liners, managing to plow two of them into the World Trade Center Towers and Pentagon, while the fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field when passengers overwhelmed their captors. Three thousand people died that day, an event that triggered two U.S. wars with hundreds of thousands more deaths, and still counting.
And now, it is that survivor of Stroman’s killing rage in 2001, a Bangladeshi named Rais Bhuiyan, who wages a campaign of forgiveness. Blinded in one eye and still bearing scars from Stroman’s shotgun pellets, Bhuiyan’s explanation is simple: He says his Islam, so different from the bloody jihad embraced by the 9/11 hijackers, is a faith that teaches forgiveness.
“Hate doesn’t bring a peaceful solution to any situation, which I realized after I became a victim of a hate crime because of the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center tragedy,” he writes on his website (World Without Hate). “This single incident changed my entire life and helped me to realize that hate only brings fear, misery, resentment and disaster into human lives. It creates obstacles to healthy human growth, which, in turn, diminishes society as a whole.”
Islamic extremists continue plot terror and carry out bombings and assassinations worldwide. But who knows? Bhuiyan’s simple yet profound act may end up doing more than the polished words of a thousand imams and mullahs to show that holy acts always trump mere words and sentiment.
That is certainly the case for Stroman. By the time you read this, he likely will be dead. But he was at peace as he faced his execution, telling documentary filmmaker Ilan Ziv recently that, “I received a message that Rais loved me and that is powerful. . . . He has forgiven the unforgiveable and I want to tell him that I have a lot of love and respect him.”
Love you enemies? Pray for those who despitefully use you? Hmm. Seems I’ve heard that somewhere before . . . .
(To see more about this remarkable man, click on this video link)