COLUMBUS, OHIO — The lawyer representing the family of Abdul Razak Ali Artan, the man who wounded 11 people at Ohio State University last week, has said U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s Twitter response to the attack shocked the family and kept them silent and mystified.
In the tweet early Wednesday morning, Trump said, “ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.”
ISIS is taking credit for the terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
In an exclusive interview with VOA, the family attorney, Robert Fitrakis, said the family is still in a “tremendous shock.”
“They [the family] are very afraid, and they expected to be attacked when they go to school or in the community. There is a great fear up there. With the statement of the President-elect Trump, to some extent I am not sure they want their faces on camera,” he said.
“Me I do not care, I believe in the American values. I don’t believe in corruption of the blood and guilty by association,” he added. “This family is innocent, shocked and traumatized. They really want an answer.”
Artan’s family, who fled from Somalia’s chronic violence and poverty, lived in Pakistan for two years and came to the United States in 2014 through a refugee program.
Many Muslims have expressed fear and uncertainty following Trump’s election campaign statement promising a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.
Family wants proof
Abdul Razak Ali Artan rammed his car into a group of students on the Ohio State campus, then got out of the car and began stabbing people before he was shot dead by a police officer.
Minutes before the attack, Artan published a post on Facebook in which he blamed America for killing Muslims abroad and praised al-Qaida cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a hero.
But attorney Fitrakis said the family could not believe their son had committed such a crime and wanted law enforcement agencies investigating the case to present proof.
“They believed something influenced their son or their brother and they want to get to the bottom of it. They want to make sure that nobody else has to go through the pain, the suffering and the trauma they are going through,” said Fitrakis.
“The mother, Faduma Saeed Abdullahi, is a single mother who was raising seven children including Artan. She was really very obsessed with education and the father of the family is still in Somalia to my understanding,” Fitrakis said.
Federal and state investigators have found no strong evidence to link his attack to any terrorist group, and Fitrakis said the nature of the attack did not represent the son and the brother this family knew.
“Abdul graduated from the Ohio community college last summer with cum laude. He was a polite and hard working person who was spending most of the time either working at Home Depot or studying,” Fitrakis said.
“[The] family told me he was a good man with a brighter future and they want to know to a large extent to see some kind of proof,” Fitrakis said. “What they want to see is the video types.”
Somali community leaders and law enforcement sources say the last terrorism case tied to Columbus was that of Abdirahman Sheik Mohamud, who was arrested in 2015 after returning from Syria. Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Somalia, was charged with providing material support to terrorists.
But Artan’s recent attack at Ohio State University is the first violent such attack.
Artan visited Washington
Artan’s family told their lawyer that when they were in Pakistan, Artan had few friends and they were isolated since there were not many Somalis.
The only time Artan’s family suspected him of possible violence was when he posted messages on Facebook minutes before the attack in Ohio.
“One of the family members saw his original post and responded him. In 45 minutes law enforcement agencies and police raided their house, telling them that their bother did an attack,” Fitrakis said.
According to sources close to the family, Abdul Razak Ali Artan went to Washington late on November 24 and came back to Ohio the following day.
Fitrakis said this short trip that occurred without the knowledge of the family surprised and shocked them.
“The fact [was] that he never went out of central Ohio or Columbus area since the family came here, and his trip to Washington DC left the family very suspicious,” Fitrakis said. “He used an old car that had 200,000 miles on it to drive to D.C.”
Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident
STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.
The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.
The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.
Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.
By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.
The sisters attended high school in Staunton.
The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”
The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.
“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”
Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.
CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing
EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”
That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.
After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.
Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.
“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.
Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.
“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.
She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”
Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.
“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.
She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.
“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”
Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.
“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.
The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.
She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.
“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”
When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway
Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.
Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.
“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”
His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.
When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”
It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.
“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.
“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”
Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.
When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.