12:00 AM, July 22, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 22, 2011

Hate has to stop

Says post-9/11 killer before his execution in Texas; his Bangladeshi victim feels this death won't gain anything after failing to save the attacker's life

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Bbc Online

Rais Bhuiyan and Mark Stroman

In the nine years Mark Stroman has been on death row in Texas, he says he has watched 208 people walk past him on the way to be executed.
Yesterday it was his turn. Stroman, a multiple murderer who went on the rampage after the 9/11 attacks, killing two people he thought were Arabs, was executed in the US state of Texas.
The 41-year-old died by lethal injection despite last-minute representations by his lawyer at the US Supreme Court.
In his final weeks Stroman's plea for clemency was backed by Rais Bhuiyan, who was shot in the face but survived and was blinded in one eye.
The execution at Huntsville prison was delayed slightly by the final legal appeals, before Stroman was taken to the death chamber.
"Even though I lay on this gurney, seconds away from my death, I am at total peace," he said.
"God bless America. God bless everyone," he said. "Let's do this damn thing."
Stroman was pronounced dead at 0153 GMT.
"I am at peace," said Stroman in his final statement. "Hate is going on in this world and it has to stop. Hate causes a lifetime of pain. Even though I lay here I am still at peace."
Speaking to the BBC before Stroman's execution, Bhuiyan, 37, said Stroman was guilty of "hate crime", but warned that his death would not achieve anything.
"His execution will not eradicate hate crimes from this world. We will just simply lose another human life," Bhuiyan said.
Stroman's execution was the eighth in Texas during 2011 so far, and came as his lawyers sought a last-minute stay at the nation's highest court.
Stroman admitted the killings, saying he was motivated by anger at the 9/11 attacks and wanted to take revenge on Muslims or people who resembled Muslims.
"I had some poor upbringing and I grabbed a hold of some ideas which was ignorance, you know, and hate is pure ignorance. I no longer want to be like hate, I want to be like me," he told the BBC.
It was a Friday lunchtime when a gunman walked into the petrol station shop and pointed a double-barrelled shotgun at Rais.
He had been robbed before and knew what to do. He offered the money from the cash register, but that didn't appear to be what Mark Stroman had come for.
"He asked me 'where are you from?' and that's a strange question to ask in a robbery. As soon as I said 'excuse me?' I heard an explosion and felt the sensation of a million bees stinging my face."
Rais Bhuiyan, a Bangladeshi-born naturalised US citizen, played dead until his attacker left.
He needed many operations, has lost the sight in his right eye and still carries shotgun pellets in his face, but is now campaigning hard to prevent his attacker from being put to death.
Mark Stroman killed two other men in a similar way - Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant who was Hindu, and Waqar Hasan, a Muslim born in Pakistan. They were both shot as they stood behind a counter.
"I was an uneducated idiot back then and now I'm a more understanding human being," Stroman said through the black telephone handset, from behind a thick pane of glass in the death row, writes Alastair Leithead on BBC.
It was a week before the death sentence was due to be carried out, and his last opportunity to speak publicly about what he did, why he did it, and what he thought about the man he shot who was now fighting for his life.
"No matter what I do or say is going to change the fact that even you are going to view the Muslims as suspect," he told Alastair Leithead.
"If you get on the airplane and you see one, you might not be wanting to, but you are going to watch that person -- we live in different times now, but it's not right to stereotype them and I'm the first to admit I did that."
Rais Bhuiyan is a Muslim, and on what he feared was his deathbed, he promised Allah he would make a pilgrimage to the Hajj in Makkah. There he thought more deeply about what had happened and what he wanted to do.
"This campaign is all about passion, forgiveness, tolerance and healing. We should not stay in the past, we must move forward," he said.
"If I can forgive my offender who tried to take my life, we can all work together to forgive each other and move forward and take a new narrative on the 10th anniversary of 11 September."
He had been in touch with Stroman, who he would like to see as "a spokesperson, an educator, teaching a lot of people as ignorant as him what is wrong".
Stroman says he has asked himself the question a thousand times -- would he be able to forgive the man who shot him in the face? He said he would find it very hard.
"I tried to kill this man, and this man is now trying to save my life. This man is inspiring to me.
"Here it is, the attacker and the attackee, you know, pulling together. The hate has to stop -- one second of hate will cause a lifetime of misery. I've done that -- it's wrong, and if I and Rais can reach one person, mission accomplished.
"If this is what my purpose in life is, let's do it -- rock on, saddle up it's rodeo time as we say in Texas."
It seems very unlikely that the governor of Texas will issue a stay of execution -- the state is known for its regular use of the death penalty -- but Stroman seems resigned to it.
"To be honest, the closer I get to death the more at peace I am," he said.
Rais Bhuiyan's desire to forgive and to stop this execution is a small step towards bringing communities together.
"He did what he did, but now he is a different person, and can talk to the people -- those who are as ignorant as him -- so there is a chance we can live in a better society. Execution is not a solution in this case."
According to a report in the Texas-based American Statesman newspaper, Bhuiyan had been telling a district judge that he wanted Stroman to explain to him why he had shot him when another court issued an order prohibiting him from continuing.
"He's gone," he said after the execution. "Who's going to give me my answers?"

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