Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack "When I first heard that [the suspect] was Somali, I mean my stomach did fall," another Somali student said. "Not just because of what happened today, but because of what will happen tomorrow."
NPR logo

Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503693426/503693427" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack

Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack

Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503693426/503693427" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Crime scene investigators collect evidence following an attack on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

toggle caption
John Minchillo/AP

Crime scene investigators collect evidence following an attack on the campus of Ohio State University in Columbus.

John Minchillo/AP

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."

Ohio State University senior Mohamed Farah says his stomach fell when he heard the attacker was also a Somali refugee. Esther Honig/WOSU 89.7 hide caption

toggle caption
Esther Honig/WOSU 89.7

Ohio State University senior Mohamed Farah says his stomach fell when he heard the attacker was also a Somali refugee.

Esther Honig/WOSU 89.7

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.

Horsed Noah, director of one of the largest Islamic centers in Columbus, says when he heard about the attack he had one though: "I hope [the suspect] is not a Muslim." Esther Honig/WOSU 89.7 hide caption

toggle caption
Esther Honig/WOSU 89.7

Horsed Noah, director of one of the largest Islamic centers in Columbus, says when he heard about the attack he had one though: "I hope [the suspect] is not a Muslim."

Esther Honig/WOSU 89.7

"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.

Correction Nov. 29, 2016

A previous version of this story misspelled Mohamed Farah's first name as Mohammed, Horsed Noah's first name as Hoarsed, and Abdul Razak Ali Artan's first name as Adbul.