Yesterday, in Ohio State University, it was reported that a third-year student named Abdul Razak Ali Artan carried out a knife attack on campus, injuring 11 people. The assailant has been killed by police and the 11 who are injured are now hospitalized under intensive care.
The motives of Artan’s attacks aren’t 100% clear. However, in a Facebook post before the rampage, Artan urged America to “to stop interfering with other countries, especially the Muslim Ummah”. He continued “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday”.
In addition, Artan was profiled by the campus newspaper where he expressed his fears of being a Muslim in America, claiming that he was “struggling to find a place to pray in peace in large campus but scared of everything going on in the media”.
Although a myriad of self-described liberals may disagree, Artan’s rampage was clearly motivated by his Islamic beliefs. At the moment, we don’t have a list of all the imams and sheikhs he subscribed to. However, he was blatantly influenced by a radicalized ideology which ignited a fire of rage urging him to stab those eleven innocent people.
However, contrary to the views of many, Islam is not the sole culprit. And although Abdul Razak Ali Artan is a refugee originally from Somalia, his refugee status has nothing to do with his actions. However, rather than digging through the layers of motives behind the rampage, most people would rather spout anti-Muslim/anti-refugee rhetoric to score political points. This is unproductive.
Mass attacks are becoming more commonplace in America. From the Columbine shooting to Eliot Rodger’s rampage in Santa Monica, California, the majority of these attacks have been perpetrated by young men between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five. Every time we hear of an attack, we instinctually blame video games, or violent TV shows, or music, or drugs.
However, in the majority of those attacks, social isolation and self-victimization are often the most significant factors. They often ferment an identity crisis, causing one to perceive the world in terms of us vs them.
Artan was feeling isolated as a Muslim in America. He clearly stated that he was “struggling…and scared of everything”. Eliot Rodger was also undergoing a similar internal struggle, as he was constantly being rejected by co-eds and ostracized from social life. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were similarly deemed as outcasts during their senior year at Columbine High School.
By the viewing the world in terms of us vs them, a person would perceive his peers as his enemies. Enemies he needed to destroy. This mode of thinking becomes even more apparent when one embraces a radicalized ideology, which is often the case for socially-isolated young men who, being young, are easily impressionable. Eliot Rodger frequented PUA and MRA forums. The Orlando shooter was influenced by the activities of ISIS. Even Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were inspired by the Oklahoma City bombings carried out by Timothy McVeigh. Similarly, Abdul Razak Ali Artan may have been impassioned by a series of sermons given by some Salafi imam.
I’m not excusing the perpetrators of their horrific actions. However, if we really want to curb the instances of mass shooting and rampages, we have to seek out the multi-layered motives behind such actions.