The following story first appeared on the Daily Campus.

American Dream Shattered: Life of a Muslim Man Post-9/11

Bridget Bennett, Daily Campus, Sept 12 2011

Rais Bhuiyan was an air force officer at home in Bangladesh, but quit his job and moved to New York City to further his education and experience the "American Dream."

After only a short period in NYC, Bhuiyan moved to Dallas with family in mind.

His fiancé was still in Bangledesh waiting for her visa while they saved for their wedding and the opportunity to start a family in America.

Bhuiyan's dream was a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. job, a wife, kids and a home in the suburbs.

That was before 9/11.

Bhuiyan worked at a convenience store in Dallas at the time.

When he heard about the terrorist attack, his reaction was similar to many.

"I couldn't believe that these things were happening in reality—I thought it was some sort of Hollywood movie or something," he said.

After the reality set in, Bhuiyan, along with many members of the Muslim community, worried there might be some backlash and discrimination toward Muslims or Arabs living in the U.S.

"But I never imagined myself that I might be one of them," he said.

In the days following 9/11, Texas native Mark Stroman went on a killing spree against anyone who appeared to be of Arab decent.

On Sept. 21, 2001, he came into the convenience store where Bhuiyan worked and pointed a shotgun at his head asking, "Where are you from?"

Before Bhuiyan could answer, Stomen shot him in the face from just four feet away.

More than 35 pellets were embedded in the right side of Bhuiyan's face.

Despite several years of surgery, medical treatments and eye surgeries, doctors could not save the vision in his right eye.

The 35 pellets remain embedded in his face, as doctors said it would be more dangerous to attempt to remove them.

Bhuiyan was able to work through the physical ramifications of that day, but the pain caused by the attack was not over.

Bhuiyan had a trip to Bangledesh scheduled for October 2001, where he was going to marry his fiancé and file for a permanent Visa to the U.S.

The trip was postponed again and again as the surgeries continued.

"I told her maybe in three to four months I would be cured and I would come home. But then I had another surgery in 2002, so again doctors said no, another six months you cannot fly," he said.

By the time Bhuiyan was well enough to travel, his savings account was completely drained and his engagement was over.

"She was under tremendous pressure from her own family to move on with her life because they were scared this guy got shot in the face and who knows what his lifestyle will be in the future," Bhuiyan said.

This was the end of his "American Dream."

Over time, Bhuiyan was able to heal, forgive and move forward.

Today he is working to make something positive out of his situation and he is sharing his story with the nation.

"God decided to put me into these situations so that I could be a messenger," he said. "I could be a bridge builder between people, religion and different community."

Standing on the principles he learned from his Muslim faith, Bhuiyan chose to start this positive change with his attacker. Stroman was on death row and Bhuiyan fought to save his life. Bhuiyan did not want the loss of another human life to add to the already tragic situation.

"Hate is not a solution," he said. "Hate cannot be a solution, hate is the problem creator."

Bhuiyan believes if his attacker had the chance to get to know him—along with the other two victims of the killing spree—Stroman would not have committed the crimes.

He believes the same thing of the 19 hijackers who committed the terrorist attack on 9/11.

"It's impossible for a human to kill another human being once they know these are peaceful people just like me," Bhuiyan said.

Today Bhuiyan is championing the movement, "World Without Hate."

The program stresses the importance of knowing and understanding your neighbors. Bhuiyan believes that through education and understanding, hate can be overcome.

For Bhuiyan, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 brings mixed emotions.

It's an event that altered the course of his life completely, but he still looks at the day with hope. A hope that the country he loves will overcome its differences and learn to live together in peace.

"Despite our religious beliefs, our cultural differences, let's move forward," he said. "At the end of the day we are all Americans living in the same country as one nation."
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