Victim of 2001 attempted murder begs clemency for his shooter

Jillian Bliss

In the wake of 9/11, practicing Muslim Rais Bhuiyan was attacked because of his religion. Remaining true to his faith, he believes he survived to save the man who shot him from execution scheduled for later this month.

Bhuiyan is in the process of filing a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas officials claiming the state hasn’t recognized his right as a victim to have mediation with the perpetrator.

Bhuiyan, who moved to the U.S. from Bangladesh as an adult, was working at a Dallas gas station on Sept. 21, 2001 when an armed Mark Stroman entered and questioned Bhuiyan about his cultural background before shooting him in the face. Stroman claimed in court he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after learning his half-sister died in the 9/11 attacks. In Stroman’s attempts at revenge, he murdered Pakistani immigrant Waqar Hasan and Indian immigrant Vasudez Patel and attempted to kill Bhuiyan.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has not responded to Bhuiyan’s request to meet with Stroman before his execution, which is scheduled for July 20. Bhuiyan is requesting the criminal’s life be spared.

Catherine Frazier, spokeswoman for Perry, said the governor’s office is aware of the case but has not received a formal lawsuit. Perry must receive a favorable recommendation from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in order to grant Stroman clemency, she said.

“This is a very unique case because [Bhuiyan] had the courage and strength to stand up for his beliefs,” said Danalynn Recer, executive director and attorney for the Gulf Region Advocacy Center. “Most don’t have this initiative and ability to never give up.”

Khurrum Wahid, Bhuiyan’s lawyer, said he hopes Bhuiyan’s case will be heard by Monday and Stroman will not face execution. Wahid said the uniqueness of the request was one reason he chose to represent Bhuiyan.

“He is portraying the true meaning of Islam, and it really cuts against the grain of all the negative stereotypes surrounding the religion,” Wahid said. “Islam does in fact say that if you are forgiving, you cannot want vengeance.”

Bhuiyan said at a press conference Thursday the families of the Stroman’s other victims also believe he should be allowed another chance at life. Bhuiyan said Stroman acted out of hatred when he committed his crimes and his execution would only perpetuate hostility in society.

“This country has suffered a lot,” Bhuiyan said. “We are living in fear, but if we work together we can break the cycle of hate. It’s not only Islam, but all religions that teach peace and to show mercy.”