'My Islamic Faith Teaches Me This Too'

Rais Bhuiyan was shot on September 21, 2001 by Mark Anthony Stroman. Stroman was motivated to try and kill Bhuiyan by the events of 9/11. Stroman killed two other men who he took to be Muslims. They weren't.


We pick up the story with Bhuiyan, after he'd been shot at close range with a double barrel shotgun:

I looked down and saw blood was pouring from my head. I placed both my hands on my head to get my brains in and I screamed, "Mom!" I looked and he was still staring at me and I thought he might shoot me again if I don't fall and he doesn't think I'm dead. The floor was getting wet with my blood. Then he left the store. I could not believe he shot me. I thought I was dreaming, going through a hallucination. I didn't do anything wrong. I was not a threat to him. I couldn't believe someone would just shoot you like that...

I went to the barber shop and they ran away. They saw me full of blood running like a slaughtered chicken and they thought the guy was behind me. I saw my face in the barbershop mirror and I couldn't believe it was me. (He begins to cry). A few minutes before, I had been a young guy in a T-shirt and shorts and tennis shoes. (He begins to cry more forcefully). Sorry, I haven't cried for the past nine years. I was lucky because there was an ambulance in the area. I was asking God, asking for forgiveness, saying I would do my best. Reciting verses from the Koran. I said I would dedicate my life to the poor. I felt my eyes were closing and it felt like my brain was shutting down slowly.

According to the Times, Bhuiyan -- who was uninsured -- was immediately discharged the next day, and spent weeks sleeping on friends sofas and relying on physician samples for painkillers.

Stroman, for his part, was sentenced to die. Bhuiyan wants no part of it:

I was raised very well by my parents and teachers. They raised me with good morals and strong faith. They taught me to put yourself in others' shoes. Even if they hurt you, don't take revenge. Forgive them. Move on. It will bring something good to you and them. My Islamic faith teaches me this too. He said he did this as an act of war and a lot of Americans wanted to do it but he had the courage to do it -- to shoot Muslims. After it happened I was just simply struggling to survive in this country. I decided that forgiveness was not enough. That what he did was out of ignorance. I decided I had to do something to save this person's life. That killing someone in Dallas is not an answer for what happened on Sept. 11.

It is tempting to direct this toward the likes of Herman Cain and the anti-Muslim bigots who he delights in stoking up. That would be a mistake. Attempting to carry other people's ignorance generally. 

This should be directed at those of us who believe in the injustice of the death penalty, and believe in free worship. It's deeply inspiring.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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