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Muslim Community Fears Backlash After Ohio State Attack

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

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 say was a refugee from Somalia.

Farah, who is a Somali refugee and a Muslim, 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.

Copyright 2016 WOSU Public Media. To see more, visit WOSU Public Media.

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