Enough. I am American. I am Muslim. And I will not let you, nor violence, nor xenophobia get to define me, affirms in her Naked Opinion on Ohio State shooting, our writer Mina Shahinfar.
Mondays always sucked. I walked into school following a bittersweet Thanksgiving Break unamused as I had typically been. When I picked up my phone before second period, I came across over seventeen notifications: text messages, safety alerts, Facebook posts, and missed calls from my parents. I frantically scrolled through social media to find out what was going on, until I suddenly came across a message that read “Pray for Ohio State.”
No. No. No. Please, not again.
My newsfeed flooded with this tweet by the Ohio State Emergency Management: “Buckeye Alert: Active Shooter on campus. Run Hide Fight. Watts Hall. 19th and College.” I saw images of barricaded classrooms, ones I had recognized from my tour of the university.
I couldn’t believe what was happening. My mind entered a strange state of shock, frustration, denial, and anger. There I was—terrified for my friends, sitting in class, only ten minutes away from the scene of what now was a car-and-knife attack that left eleven people, ordinary college students, wounded. I quickly excused myself and kneeled on the ground. I tightly shut my eyes. All I could do was pray.
Please God, don’t tell me that a Muslim was responsible. Don’t tell me a Muslim committed this violent attack.
It’s always easier to hear and speak of violence and unrest happening overseas and across the globe. I never thought I’d experience the unpleasant threat to my own safety and security. Colleges and universities, once seen as peaceful havens, are now targets of bloodshed.
A text from my friend, who is a current Ohio State sophomore, read:
“I kept getting texts and found out the attack happened right where I was heading, 19th and College Rd (literally where my class is). Instead of going to campus, I went to a Starbucks nearby and then I started getting texts from my friends that were inside of the building that it happened outside of. They were under lockdown and terrified for their lives. I was terrified for my friends and families safety. As things started to tone down and classes were canceled, I started seeing possible suspects – Mohammad Ali was the first one I saw.
Of course it was a Muslim, why wouldn’t he be? I started seeing things on social media like, “Muslims hurt your children today at Ohio State University,” and “Muslims are the only religion that lives to kill innocent people.” I’m not sure if they confirmed that he was Muslim, but either way it’s so sad to see such a beautiful religion looked at as such a threat to society. Thankfully I was not harmed and neither were any of my friends/family.”
Hours later, I found out that the suspect was shot and identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan, a twenty-year-old Ohio State student and a Muslim indeed.
And to you, Mr. Artan, I have this to say:
How? How could you, a proclaimed Muslim, submit to such heinous acts of violence? I want to know what you were thinking. What was going through your head as you were driving this morning? As you landed your eyes on the group of pedestrians at the corner? As you saw the faces of fellow human beings seconds before you drove into their crowd and pulled out your knife? In my own town that’s been my home for the past seventeen years? Was this supposed to make you feel good?
If only you were alive to see for yourself the consequences of your disgusting actions. You’ve accomplished nothing, other than make my life and the lives of my friends and family much more difficult to live.
You didn’t just heartlessly stab eleven innocent individuals; you’ve torn the once solid layer of tranquility that surrounded my community. You are part of the reason why my mother’s patients frowned at her when she walked in the room. You are part of the reason why my own friend has decided to remove her headscarf, ashamed of her visible Islamic status, after being spat on by a prejudice man. You’ve only perpetuated the growing stigma that will forever tarnish and encompass the image of my religion.
But know this. My headscarf stays on, and it will stay on because it is my lasting identity. I am American. I am Muslim. And I will not let you, nor violence, nor xenophobia get to define me.
I am not here to apologize on your behalf. I am tired of condemning violence. I am a believer in peace, equality, and justice. You, like all other carriers of brutality, are a disgrace to all of humanity. And for these reasons, your soul deserved to leave this world.
Read more: The Story of 7th Century Islamic Feminism