The revelation that Abdul Razak Ali Artan—the 18-year-old student who authorities say injured 11 by driving a car into a group of pedestrians and attacking people with a knife yesterday (November 28)—was a Somali immigrant has some local Somalis and Muslims worried about backlash.
"When I first heard that he was Somali, I mean my stomach did fall," Somali refugee Mohamed Farah told NPR. "Not just because of what happened today, but because of what will happen tomorrow." Farah is a senior at The Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, where campus police officer Alan Horujko fatally shot Artan following the attack.
Fear of possible backlash is especially significant as authorities and media outlets seek out a possible motive. ABC News echoed other outlets when reporting on a Facebook post Artan apparently published minutes before the attack, criticizing American interference in other countries and saying, "If you want us Muslims to stop carrying [out] lone wolf attacks, then make peace." ABC News reports that the post appeared on a now-deactivated page.
The outlet also linked to an August article in OSU’s student paper The Lantern. In that story, a transfer student with the same name as the alleged attacker described his fear of praying in the open on campus. "I wanted to pray in the open, but I was scared with everything going on in the media. I’m a Muslim, it’s not what the media portrays me to be," he told The Lantern. "If people look at me, a Muslim praying, I don’t know what they’re going to think, what’s going to happen." The student said he transferred from Columbus State, which appears to parallel a statement from Columbus State Community College officials saying that Artan graduated with an associate’s degree in the spring of 2016.
"The timing is not good," said Omar Hassan, president of the Columbus-based Somali Community Association of Ohio, to USA Today. "We are Black. We are Muslim. We are Somali. We are all the negative stigmas."
"I was with my wife and I said, ‘I hope he is not a Muslim,’" Horsed Noah, the director of Columbus’ Masjid Abubakar Asiddiq Islamic Center, told NPR. Noah was one of several community leaders who spoke at a press conference condemning the attacks and compelling calm in Columbus yesterday evening.