Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack | KERA News

Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack

Nov 29, 2016
Originally published on December 6, 2016 1:15 pm

At an off-campus coffee shop Monday, Ohio State University senior Mohamed Farah catches up on his homework.

"I didn't get a lot of work done today just because there's a lot going on," he says. "I tried to stay away from the news, but I kept going back to it."

Farah first learned of an attack on campus when security sent a text to the entire university: "Active shooter on campus: Run Hide Fight."

But the attacker did not use a firearm. According to police, he drove a car into pedestrians, then got out and attacked people with a butcher knife. Eleven people were injured before police shot and killed the suspect.

Farah says at first he feared for the safety of his friends and fellow students. Then, as more details were confirmed, his fears turned inward.

"When I first heard that he was Somali, I mean my stomach did fall," he says. "Not just because of what happened today, but because of what will happen tomorrow."

Police identified the suspect as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who The Associated Press says was a refugee from Somalia.

Farah, who is a Muslim and the son of Somali refugees, says attacks blamed on terrorism have a familiar aftermath on campus: snide comments, peering eyes and a feeling of uneasiness.

"Those Somali men and women, the ones that wear a head scarf or the ones like myself with the name Mohamed, tomorrow will be a day of trepidation," he says.

Looking through tweets, Farah says the negative ones from his fellow OSU students are the most painful, like one that says as a Somali refugee, Artan "bit the hand that fed him."

"That one really, it shakes the core of you, you know," Farah says.

At the moment little is known about Artan. Authorities believe he acted alone but they do not know the motives behind the attack. In August, the recent transfer student was interviewed by the school newspaper in a series called "Humans of OSU." Artan said he didn't feel comfortable praying on campus.

"If people look at me, a Muslim praying," he said, "I don't know what they're going to think."

Horsed Noah, director of one of the largest Islamic centers in Columbus, runs a youth group for Somali men and women. He says he didn't know Artan, but reading that interview, he thinks the young man had become isolated.

"That definitely should have been a red flashing light," Noah says.

Noah says when he first heard about the attack at OSU, he had one thought: "I was with my wife and I said, 'I hope he is not a Muslim.' "

On Monday, Noah held community meetings to calm parents and children who are scared to return to work and school. He says his community is as shocked as the rest of the country.

Today, classes at OSU resume.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't dreading it, but I don't think I'm going to skip class. I think I'm going to be there. I'm going to have conversations," Farah says. "I choose love. I affirm life.

Farah says he is as proud as ever to be a Buckeye.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

All right, a frightening day at Ohio State yesterday. Police say an 18-year-old student at the school drove a car into a group of pedestrians. He then got out and attacked people with a butcher knife. He injured a total of 11 people before a campus policeman shot him dead. The young suspect was a practicing Muslim and originally from Somalia. Esther Honig from member station WOSU reports that those two facts have put the Muslim Somali community on edge.

ESTHER HONIG, BYLINE: At a coffee shop just off campus, Ohio State University senior Mohammed Farah is catching up on his homework.

MOHAMMED FARAH: I mean, I didn't get much work done today just because I think there's a lot going on. I tried to stay away from the news, but I kept going back to it.

HONIG: Farah first learned of the attack when campus security sent a text to the entire university which said, active shooter on campus - run, hide, fight. Farah says, at first, he feared for the safety of his friends and fellow students. Then, as more details were confirmed, his fears turned inward.

FARAH: When I first heard that he was Somali, I mean, my stomach did fall, not only because of what happened today, but for fear of what will happen tomorrow.

HONIG: Farah is a Somali refugee and a Muslim. He says attacks blamed on terrorism have a familiar aftermath on campus - snide remarks, peering eyes and a feeling of uneasiness.

FARAH: Those Somali men and women, the ones that wear a headscarf or the ones, like myself, with a name like Mohammed, tomorrow will be a day of trepidation.

HONIG: Looking through tweets, he says the negative ones from his fellow OSU students are the most painful, like the one that says, as a Somali refugee, suspect Abdul Razak Ali Artan bit the hand that fed him.

FARAH: That one really - you know, it shakes the core of you, you know?

HONIG: At the moment, little is known about Artan. Authorities believe he acted alone, but they do not know the motives behind his attack. Last August, the recent transfer student was interviewed by the school newspaper in a series called humans of OSU. Artan said he didn't feel comfortable praying on campus - quote, "if people look at me - a Muslim praying - I don't know what they're going to think."

Horsed Noah, the director of one of the largest Islamic centers in Columbus, runs a youth group for Somali men and women. He didn't know Artan, but reading that interview, he says he thinks the young man may have become isolated.

HORSED NOAH: That definitely should have been a red flashing light.

HONIG: Noah says, when he first heard about the attack at OSU, he had one thought.

NOAH: I was with my wife, and I said, I hope he is not a Muslim.

HONIG: On Monday, Noah held community meetings to calm parents and children who are scared to return to work and school.

NOAH: We are as shocked as every other citizen in this country.

HONIG: Today, classes for Mohammed Farah and the rest of OSU students will resume.

FARAH: I'd be lying if I said I wasn't dreading it, but I don't think I'm going to skip class. I think I'm going to be there. I think I'm going to have conversations. I choose love. I affirm life.

HONIG: Farah says he is as proud as ever to be a Buckeye. For NPR News, I'm Esther Honig in Columbus, Ohio.

GREENE: And we should say Esther reports from member station WOSU. The Ohio State University holds the broadcast license for WOSU where the newsroom operates independently of the university. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.