Mark Anthony Stroman, a Texas inmate who called himself the â
€œArab Slayer,â€� was executed July 20 for killing a Dallas-area
convenience store clerk. The killing occurred during a shooting spree
that he said was in retaliation for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Stroman didn't kill any Arabs. Rather, he killed one man from India and
another from Pakistan and seriously wounded Rais Bhuiyan (Boo-yon)
from Bangladesh. It didn't really matter to Stroman. He was just out to
get anybody who was "the Other."
Stroman later expressed remorse and admitted wrongdoing. "I cannot
tell you that I am an innocent man," he said. "I...made a terrible mistake
out of love, grief and anger, and believe me I am paying for it every
single minute of the day."
The so-called "Christian" who killed 77 people in Norway also saw
himself a patriot, defending Europe against "the Other." And the only
way the planters in the South were able to enslave people from Africa
was to see them as "the Other."
It is wrong on so many levels:
1. It allows one person to ignore the humanity of another person made
in God's image.
2. It allows a person to set himself up as judge, jury, even executioner
of other human beings.
3. It allows him or her to ignore the laws of God, of the land and of
4. It violates Christian standards of love for all people.
5. It violates Christian faith to take things into our own hands as though
God isn't capable of exercising his own will, as if he needs us to help
Stroman's life, the tragedy in Norway and slavery in the U.S. are
examples of the phenomenon identified in philosophy as "The Other"--
being so obsessed with the differences between you and another human
being that you fail to recognize him or her as human. That merely
multiplies the wrong.
As one of Stroman's victims, Rais Bhuiyan, put it: "His execution only
ended another human life without impacting the root cause of hatred for
people who are seen as different because of their race, religion,
ethnicity, sexual orientation."
When we divide human beings into two classes--us and the "Other"--
we see those who agree with us as inherently right or good and those
who disagree with us as inherently wrong or even evil.
For much of my life, we Americans behaved as if we were better than
that. We treated those who disagreed with us with respect, even
kindness. In recent years, political life and discourse have coarsened.
Now, we aren't content to disagree, we have to belittle, deride, even
Fortunately, that wasn't Bhuiyan's view. Rather than seeking revenge
for having been shot in the face, he began collecting signatures to
petition the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to commute Stromanâ
€™s death penalty sentence to life in prison without parole.
â€œIâ€™ve had many years to grow spiritually,â€� said Bhuiyan. "In
Islam, forgiveness is the best policy. This is the real Islam, the true
Bhuiyan, who was a new immigrant and only 26 at the time of the
shooting, said he had forgiven Stroman long before, but later realized
that his faith called him to do more. He set up a website, "World
without Hate," that got support for commuting Stroman's sentence from
all over the world. Among those supporting his cause were relatives of
the two men he had killed.
Bhuiyan, who has a B.A. in aeronautics, now plans to study journalism
and human rights at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "He wants
to become more aware and active on a broader range of human rights
issues," said Rick Harperin, who teaches history and runs SMU's
Center for Human Rights.
Mark Anthony Stroman