Rais Bhuiyan has a remarkable story — one that continually inspires people from around the globe to interview and speak with him about his campaign, World without Hate. Rais’ story took root in Bangladesh and grew from seeds planted by his parents and strong Islamic beliefs in forgiveness. His life path led to his being an officer in the Bangladesh Air Force and student at the Sylhet Cadet College before traveling to New York in 1999 to study computer technology.
It was shortly after he moved to Dallas to seek career opportunities, however, that Rais would find himself needing to dig deep to cling to his strong family and faith-based roots — and later cultivate them — after a life-altering, traumatic incident. On September 21, 2001, just 10 days after the tragic events of 9/11, he was shot in the face by a white supremacist who called himself “the Arab slayer.” That fateful day would not only lead to Rais’ journey to rebuild his own life, but also help build a better world.
The man who shot Rais was Mark Stroman, who confessed to shooting Rais and killing two other South Asian workers, and was sentenced to death. Rais survived, but with the use of only one eye. He still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded deep within his face. Many wouldn’t blame him if he were to respond to Stroman’s misguided actions with hate and anger, but Rais chose to take the high road, mounting an aggressive campaign to convince Texas authorities to reduce his assailant’s sentence from death to life in prison.
“It is due to Rais’ message of forgiveness that I am more content now than I have ever been,” Mark said prior to his execution during an interview with a documentary filmmaker. “If I don't make it, I want Rais to carry on his work teaching people not to be prejudiced. We need to make sure there is not another Mark Stroman,” noting earlier how “humbled” he was by Rais’ transformative efforts to promote healing instead of hate.
Rais worked tirelessly to save Stroman’s life, with pleas for clemency that in 2011, reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Though Stroman was executed, Rais continues his World without Hate campaign to promote healing, compassion and forgiveness.
Reporters from America, Australia, Britain, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, New Zealand and Switzerland have told and continue to share Rais’ story and vision, leading to prominent features in The New York Times, Der Spiegel, Esquire, D magazine and many more. He told MSNBC, “I’m trying to do my best not to allow the loss of another human life. I'll knock on every door possible.”He added, "In Islam it says that saving one human life is the same as saving the entire mankind. Since I forgave him, all those principles encouraged me to go even further, and stop his execution and save another human life.”
Anand Giridharadas, author of the accomplished India Calling, released The True American: Murder and Mercy in Texas, a 2014 The New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books, on Bhuiyan’s remarkable story and experience. Academy Award winner Kathryn Bigelow has also picked Bhuiyan’s inspiring story as one of her next directorial effort, starring Tom Hardy and others.
Rais speaks regularly around the world, in intimate group settings and as keynote in large venues, to members of the European Union, German Parliament, Amnesty International, the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the United Nations’ Ambassador Delegation Women’s Club, numerous school, college and university audiences, community organizations, conference audiences, religious institutions, non-profit organizations, reading and book clubs, and diversity and social justice groups.
His actions have led to prominent awards as:
• 2014 American Heritage Award by the American Immigration Council
• 2011 American of the Year, an Esquire Magazine designation Rais shared with such dignitaries as astronaut Mark Kelly and Apple founder Steve Jobs
• Search for Common Ground Award from Search for Common Ground, an international non-governmental agency focused on overcoming conflict
• 2011 Peace Maker of the Year from the Dallas Peace Center
• Council on American-Islamic Relations’ national 2011 Peace and Justice Award and the Bridge Builder Award from its Texas chapter
• Excellence for Human Service Award from United for Change, an American nonprofit dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of Muslim issues