On September 21, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan was working behind the counter at a gas station outside Dallas, Texas when a man named Mark Stroman walked in brandishing a sawed-off shotgun.
Stroman was a self-proclaimed white supremacist in the midst of a deadly hate crime spree. Seeking revenge for the recent September 11th attacks just days earlier, he roamed the area looking for what he believed to be Arabs to kill. In that killing spree Stroman took the lives of an Indian immigrant named Vasudev Patel and Waqar Hassan, a Pakistani immigrant.
Stroman shot Bhuiyan in the face. But Bhuiyan, who was a former Bangladeshi air force pilot, survived the attack. Stroman was eventually arrested, convicted of murder and sent to death row.
As Stroman awaited execution, Rais Bhuiyan embarked on an improbable campaign to spare the life of his attacker.
This story was masterfully told in the 2014 book The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas by Anand Ghirdiharas. A major hollywood movie based on the book is currently in production.
Today, Rais Bhuiyan is the founder and president of the NGO, World Without Hate. When we caught up, Rais had recently returned from a trip to Canada, sponsored by the US State Department, where he told his story. That trip also included a visit to the Islamic Center of Quebec City which was the scene of a mass shooting hate crime just one year ago. We kick off discussing this trip and Rais’ work with the State Department before entering into a long and powerful conversation about Rais’ experience.