Often times, many people hear reports of anti-Muslim sentiment in communities across America. Members of the Muslim community have unfortunately been ostracized, vilified and, at times, outright hated since the attacks of September 11th.
Arguably, it has been a mountainous walk of faith to show compassion towards people who continue to demean and discriminate against their beliefs.
One can only imagine how difficult it is to walk by faith in a world that looks to condemn or suspect you for your religious beliefs. But what happens when someone takes a persistent level of hatred and puts it into action because of that faith? How does your faith come into play at that point? Well, one man surprisingly answered that question in a way that should make us all examine what it means to be a person of faith.
Mark Anthony Stroman was sentenced to death for the killing of two people in a Dallas, TX convenience store in 2001. Stroman killed the men out of a spirit of aggression and retaliation just days after the September 11 attacks.
By the time you read this, Stroman will most likely be dead.
The only survivor of Stroman’s attacks was Rais Bhuiyan, a Muslim man. Rais Bhuiyan was shot by Stroman in the face, leaving him partially blind. Reports indicate that Stroman attacked these individuals not just because he was angry, but because he thought they were from the Middle East.
What the gunmen didn’t know is that none of his victims actually were from the Middle East, adding yet another layer of hurt to an already tragic occurrence.
By most accounts, Bhuiyan could have been consumed by grief and agony. Many would think he might turn bitter because of Stroman’s actions. But rather than become filled with aggression and seek revenge, Bhuiyan was filled with something else — his faith and God.
Instead of petitioning to have his shooter killed, he lobbied to have him removed from death row — a shocking act of compassion and forgiveness on the part of Bhuiyan.
Bhuiyan credits his faith in God and his Islamic teaching that allow him to show compassion towards Stroman. Many have written on how Bhuiyan’s faith is an illuminating demonstration on what redemption and forgiveness can yield when one’s heart is in the right place.
The larger story is that Bhuiyan’s actions should make us all examine how deep our faith truly is. Do we simply profess our faith and never show it, or do we demonstrate it in times of despair and tragedy?
How well do we really forgive? What lengths would we go to in order to show compassion for someone else’s life when they’ve hurt us? No matter what your religious convictions might be, Bhuiyan’s actions set the bar for us all to remember how powerful faith can be when you put it into action.