Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Million Bees Stinging My Face

Mark Stroman sits on death row awaiting execution by the people of Texas. There is no doubt he is guilty of cold blooded, wanton murder. He admits to his crimes. I will therefore not oppose his execution. Nor will I support it. I will stand mute.

Frequently when I describe the details of the crime, I rely on an opinion from an appellate court. Here, in this case, I rely entirely on the words of Raisuddin Bhuiuian, a great American.
My name is Rais. I was born in Bangladesh. I came to the United States to fulfill my lifelong dream to pursue higher education and to experience the American Dream. But within a short time my life was completely changed due to one single incident. The lesson I learned from that incident transformed my life and motivated me to educate people against hate crime.
It was Friday 12:30pm, September 21, 2001. A man with a gun entered the gas station where I was working. He asked me -
“Where are you from?"
The question seemed strange to ask during a robbery, which certainly this was -- the man wore a bandana, sunglasses and a baseball cap, and aimed the gun directly at my face as I stood over the gas station register. “Excuse me?” I asked. As soon as I spoke I felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face, and then heard an explosion. Images of my mother, my father, my siblings and my fiancĂ© appeared before my eyes, and then, a graveyard. I didn’t know if I were still alive. I looked down at the floor and saw blood pouring like an open faucet from the side of my head. Frantically, I placed both hands on my face, thinking I had to keep my brains from spilling out. I heard myself screaming, “Mom!” The gunman was still standing there. I thought, “If I don’t pretend I’m dead, he’ll shoot me again.”
This was not a robbery but it was a hate crime. It was just after the tragedy of the World Trade Center on September 11th. The man with the gun was Mark Stroman, a white supremacist, and he was in the middle of a shooting rampage to express his anger towards those of Middle Eastern descent. He shot and killed Waqar Hasan, a man from Pakistan, on September 15; he shot me, a man from Bangladesh, on September 21, 2001, and shot and killed Vasudev Patel, a man from India, on October 4. All the victims were shot while working at gas stations and convenience stores in Dallas.
This incident changed my life, and has helped me to realize that hate doesn’t bring a peaceful solution to any situation. 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. Mark Stroman’s hate only brought more pain and suffering to an already mourning nation.
For his actions, he was found guilty on April 4, 2002 in the death of Mr. Patel, with a scheduled execution date of July 20th, 2011.
I am requesting that Mark Stroman’s death penalty be commuted to life in prison with no parole. 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.
The other victims in this tragedy are Mark Stroman’s children. Not only have the Hasan and Patel children lost their fathers, but, if executed, Stroman’s children will lose their father also. I forgave Mark Stroman many years ago. In fact, I have never hated him. I never hated America for what happened to me. I believe he was ignorant, and not capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, otherwise he wouldn’t have done what he did. I think about him waiting in a cell to be executed, and can feel the pain of how ignorance can be driven by such hate, and cause somebody like him to murder two completely innocent people.
I believe that by sparing his life, we will give Mr. Stroman a chance to realize, through time and maturity, that hate doesn’t bring a peaceful solution to any situation. Perhaps, if given the opportunity, it might generate such a positive influence on him that he may want to become a spokesperson against hate crime.
I strongly believe that there are important reasons why God spared my life. I feel driven to bring an awareness of hate crimes to others. Hate crimes of ALL types. To educate those who may be as ignorant as Mark Stroman, and raise a consciousness among people that hating others can never bring lasting peace and satisfaction.

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