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Meet Rais Bhuiyan!

2011 September 23

The Common Ground Awards are coming up (October 27) and if you’d like to come get your tickets now!

Leading up to the event we’ll be showcasing one of our exceptional 2011 awardees each week and we’ll kick it off with Rais Bhuiyan.

Searching the internet for Rais Bhuiyan is overwhelming – this brave man’s story about love and forgiveness has inspired so many and been retold over and over again. His life had come close to an end after being shot in the face, but Rais Bhuiyan never gave up forgave and even went on a judicial quest to save his aggressor from the death row.

Flashback: In 1999 Bhuiyan left his home in Bangladesh, where he was an officer in the Airforce, and moved to New York to study computer science. A couple of months later, Bhuiyan was invited by a former schoolmate from Bangladesh to move to Texas and become a partner in a new gas station. The cost of living and tuition were cheaper in Dallas and he was eager to gain experience with a start-up business. “It seemed a wonderful opportunity, a way of gaining stability in my adopted country,” Bhuiyan explains his decision to move to Texas. But then the tragic events of 9/11 changed the face of the world and a few days later Bhuiyan’s forever. On September 21st 2001 the white supremacist Mark Stroman walked into the gas station where Bhuiyan was working, asked him where he was from and without waiting for an answer fired a shot from close up into his face. Miraculously Bhuiyan survived, with 35 pellets under the skin of his face and a blinded eye.

“I never hated America for what happened. My shooting was an individual incident. I forgave Mark Stroman many years ago”, says Bhuiyan. He had found the strength to forgive in his faith, Islam. “In Islam it says that saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind”. This belief was what started Bhuiyan’s quest through the judicial system to save Stroman’s life and commute the death sentence to life in prison with no parole

In an interview, Stroman told Ilan Ziv, a documentary filmmaker, that he was remorseful for the crimes and was deeply moved by Bhuiyan’s attempts to save his life. “I received a message that Rais loved me and that is powerful,” said Stroman, who suffered extreme abuse and neglect as a child at the hands of his alcoholic parents, according to court records. “I want to thank him in person for his inspiring act of compassion. He has forgiven the unforgivable and I want to tell him that I have a lot of love and respect him,” he added. Stroman was executed in July 2011.

While fighting to save Stroman he founded World Without Hate, an organization that raises awareness of hate crimes in an effort to prevent them. “I feel more love and compassion for human beings than I ever did before this accident. Sight is gone from one eye, but my vision has never been clearer.”

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