Somali-American Community Concerned After Ohio State Attack


24 December, 2016

Last month, a student at Ohio State University ran into people with a car and stabbed them with a knife. The victims survived, but police shot and killed the attacker, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, at the place the incident happened.

Since then, members of the Muslim community have been trying to understand what made Artan carry out such violence. Artan was a Somali refugee who came to the U.S. with his family in 2014.

He had been a successful student. He earned honors at a local community college before going to Ohio State, one of America's largest universities.

FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, crime scene investigators collect evidence from the pavement as police respond to an attack on campus at Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio.
FILE - In this Nov. 28, 2016 file photo, crime scene investigators collect evidence from the pavement as police respond to an attack on campus at Ohio State University, in Columbus, Ohio.

Officials at the mosque near the family's home say Artan was not well-known to them. They add that they are concerned that others may judge the entire community by the actions of one young man.

Concerns increase in the local Muslim community

Robert Fitrakis is a lawyer representing Artan's family. He describes how the family fears the political climate in the United States. "I'm not sure they want their face on camera," he says.

Mohamud Mohamed Ahmed is a member of the Muslim community at Abubakar Assiddiq mosque in Columbus.

"I've been in this country 25 years, so we are Americans, but we are Muslim, too. We should not be viewed as people who came from another planet. We are not aliens. We are citizens of this country."

The issue of refugees and migration has become an important political issue in the United States.

Supporters of strict immigration policy say the attack shows the danger that immigrants, or refugees, could present.

Earlier this month, for example, President-elect Trump said the attack at Ohio State University was "yet one more tragic reminder that immigration security is now national security."

However, refugee resettlement supporters point to the need to help people from conflict areas around the world.

Becca Heller is the director of the International Refugee Assistance Project. She criticized the words used by Trump in an interview with NPR news.

"That rhetoric has had an impact. Trump has been successful in politicizing refugee admissions in a way that they have not been politicized before."

The number of refugees admitted to the United States has increased since 2002. However, the number of refugees admitted to the U.S reached "historically low levels" in the year following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

A report by Congressional Research Services, or CRS, says that 27,131 refugees were allowed into the country in that year.

The number of refugees admitted in 2017 could reach 110,000, the CRS report says.

Any possible changes to immigration and refugee policy remain unclear as the Trump administration begins on January 20.

I'm John Russell.

Arash Arabasadi wrote this story for VOA News. John Russell adapted it and used additional sources for this story for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

honors – n. plural special credit or recognition given to students who have successfully done work at a high level

strict – adj. used to describe a command, rule, etc., that must be obeyed

rhetoric – n. formal often disapproving : language that is intended to influence people and that may not be honest or reasonable

politicize – v. disapproving : to relate (an idea, issue, etc.) to politics in a way that makes people less likely to agree