On Monday, November 28th, 18-year-old Abdul Razak Ali Artan launched a brutal attack against students at Ohio State’s Columbus campus. Driving alone into campus, Artan began his assault by crashing a car into a group of pedestrians on a busy campus sidewalk. Immediately following the collision, Artan stepped out of the car and proceeded to slash at those closest to him with a recently purchased butcher knife. Although no victims were killed, the event left 11 students, faculty, and staff hospitalized. Minutes after the attack began, Police Officer Alan Horujko stopped the attack by shooting and killing Artan.
Artan, a student who had just recently transferred from Columbus State to the University of Ohio, had immigrated to the US with his family and had become a legal resident several years earlier.
“I never expected any kind of behavior like that from him,” His neighbor, Louann Carnahan, stated. “I’m still beside myself that he was even capable of the acts that he did.” Both family and friends are in shock at the horrifying events that have taken place.
With a young man committing a crime so far detached from his day to day personality, officials are actively searching for possible motives which may have incited his odd behavior. Many of those closest to Artan stated that they observed no major changes in his behavior in the days before the event. As of now, the only evidence which suggests a reasoning for this deliberate attack are a couple statements made by Artan himself on Facebook and an interview for his school newspaper.
“I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media,” Artan said about his religion in a segment of his school newspaper. On Facebook, a few moments prior to the attack, Artan wrote “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday.”
Even with such racially-centered statements as well as the fact that ISIS has claimed responsibility for the event, it is still unsure whether or not there is a terrorist connection. Although there is no clear or direct link connecting the attack with ISIS, the co-founder of the Search for International Terrorist Entities Intelligence Group Rita Katz has tweeted that “Though no confirmed motive, use of vehicle & knife in #OhioState attack is consistent with recent attack instructions issued by #ISIS.”
In the midst of such a terrible event, it is clear that president elect Donald Trump still refuses to let go of his anti-muslim and anti-immigration beliefs. Tweeting that “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country,” Mr. Trump shows that he is holding true to the anti-immigration beliefs which were so central to his campaign. Instead of attempting to placate racial tensions, many of which were stated by Artan himself in the segment of his school newspaper, Mr. Trump has decided to attribute the attack to the fact that Artan was a refugee and an immigrant. It is very probable that Mr. Trump will follow through with his proposal to ban refugees from the country.
Despite the fact that such a proposal seems to be a reasonable response to the circumstances, it simply may not be the right way to go. As the immigration situation stands now, it is tough enough for a Somalian to escape the dangers of their country and receive a visa to reunite with family members in the US. As stated by writer Will Oremus “Many … escaped the armed conflict in Somalia only to face new obstacles in the US … poverty, alienation, and a wholly justified sense of persecution.” This sense of persecution clearly manifests itself within many of Artan’s comments which preceded his rampage. All in all, this was a crime committed by a single individual and should not be viewed as representing an entire race or religion. Just because one individual made an immoral decision, there is no reason to accuse or blame all Somalis or all immigrants for the horrors of one event.
At Loomis, we are fortunate to be a part of an inclusive community where we hardly ever experience the effects of racism and violence which plague many other parts of our nation. The fact that we do not experience it firsthand, however, provides no justification for ignoring it. As a community, we have to acknowledge that racial tensions are alive throughout the US, and we must do our best to work towards change.