Monday, December 19, 2011

Rais Bhuiyan symbolizes theme of AMV Peace Convention

2011 AMV Convention glimpse-1C

AMV American Muslim Voice Peace Convention 2011 draws large crowd

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

American Muslim Voice held its Annual Peace Convention on Sunday (Dec 11, 2011) at the Chandni Restaurant in Fremont/Newark. The 5-hour long Convention attracted a crowd of around 400 people from near and far. The master of ceremony was Anser Hasan, a reporter from the CBS5 morning show.

AMV brought together Muslim scholars, featured speakers, panelists, award recipients and a diverse crowd of people in order to highlight the importance of community and peace building in America. 2011 AMV Convention Multifaith prayers-C

The program began with multi-faith prayers by Rabbi Elisheva Salamo (Jewish), Sister Margaret Hoffman (Christian) and Omar Raza (recitation of the Holy Quran).

The theme of the convention was “Awakening the American Spirit: Turning the Tide of Hate into Love.” The convention was divided into two sessions. The first session comprised of two parallel events: Conversation with Muslim Scholars and Civil Rights Panel Discussion.

Khalid Saeed, the AMV National President, presented an overview about the AMV achievements since its establishment eight years.2011 AMV Convention KS-9C

He said: “We take pride and comfort in being recognized regionally and nationally as a Muslim peace building and community building organization. We have been active in support of human and immigrant rights; we are unique as a grassroots facilitator of interfaith/intercultural dialogue. The secret of our success is practicing Islam with our actions- not just words- in the main stream among our fellow Americans- responding first to each community’s needs, serving the whole community and nation from the part of us that is rooted in the universal values of love, peace, and justice given to us through Islam.”

He went on to say: AMV campaigns like, “Share the joy of Ramadan and Eid with your fellow Americans,” “Light the night for peace and friendship,” an Iftar dinner held in 2009 across from White House have been very successful in changing the negative image of Islam and Muslims, promoting mutual respect, acceptance and harmony. [Text of Khalid Saeed’s Speech]

Rais Bhuiyan

Rais Bhuiyan, a featured speaker perhaps symbolized the theme of the convention. A victim of post-9/11 shooting spree, Bhuiyan forgave and tried to spare the life of the man who shot him and left him for dead. Rais Bhuiyan shared his courageous story of compassion, love and forgiveness. A white supremacist shot Rais and two other South Asians. The other two innocent victims of hate died while Rais survived. He was blinded in one eye and still carries 35 shotgun pellets embedded in his face. Rais Buiyan-F

Just 10 days after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rais Bhuiyan was working at a gas station in Dallas when he was shot in the face by a man named Mark Stroman, an avowed white supremacist, who was on a shooting spree, targeting people who appeared to be Muslim or of Middle Eastern descent.

Stroman also shot and killed Waqar Hasan, a Pakistani immigrant in Dallas. Vasudev Patel, an Indian immigrant and gas station owner in Mesquite, TX, was Stroman’s third and final victim. Stroman admitted to the shootings.

The press labeled the murders Texas's first post 9/11 hate crime. Stroman himself claimed that “blinded by rage,” he killed to avenge the United States. The prosecution convinced the jury that robbery was his true motive, (even though he hadn’t taken money from his victims) and he was sentenced to death.

Bhuiyan had mounted an aggressive campaign to convince Texas authorities to commute Stroman's sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He has asked the state board of pardons and paroles to make a positive recommendation for clemency to Gov. Rick Perry, and has asked Texas prison administrators for permission to meet face-to-face with Stroman for a victim-offender reconciliation process. After those efforts were met with no response from Texas officials, Bhuiyan filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing that his rights as a crime victim to meet with his attacker had been unjustly denied.

Bhuiyan’s efforts on behalf of Stroman were motivated by his Muslim faith. He says: The Koran teaches that those who forsake retribution and forgive those who have wronged them become closer to God.

Bhuiyan has created a website called World Without Hate to educate others about hate crimes as a means of preventing them. He's also working with Amnesty International and Stroman's defense attorney, who has filed several appeals on Stroman's death sentence.

Read more about this inspiring event at American Muslim Voice home page -- Click here

No comments: