10 Things We Should Learn From the Ohio State Attack
The attack was one of the least-covered jihadist attack on American soil. The media dropped the issue like a hot potato.
BY Shireen Qudosi · @ShireenQudosi | December 2, 2016
Americans returned from Thanksgiving to news of the latest jihadi attack waged by a Somali Muslim, Abdul Razak Ali Artan. Declaring that he had reached a “boiling point,” the 18-year-old Ohio State University student drove a car into a crowded area on the Columbus campus. He then exited the vehicle and attacked the crowd with a knife. Artan injured 11 students before being killed by a university police officer.
Artan was a legal resident who came to the US through Pakistan in 2014. He arrived with his family, securing a refugee status after having escaped from Somalia.
Ohio State University President Michael V. Drake, along with Ohio State Governor John Kasich, shied away from identifying the cause of the attack. This despite Artan’s last Facebook post embracing a chilling message that in part read, “By Allah, we will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims…”
Terrorism expert Walid Phares is clear about the motive. In private correspondence, Dr. Phares shares his belief that the Ohio State attack is “Another case of urban Jihadism. At this point the issue isn’t even a link or not to ISIS or al Qaeda, but a link to the specific ideology called Jihadism. This is the generator of terror.”
In his book, The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy, Dr. Phares charts irreconcilable views between democracy and the violent ideology of jihadism that promotes a doctrine of death. Writing in The War of Ideas, Dr. Phares shares the insight that seems to escape academia and a former GOP presidential candidate:
The ushq al mout (love of death) is the backbone of suicide bombing and gives terrorism its most frightening firepower. Indeed, once the fear of death is subtracted from political planning and public concern, there are no limits to the power of Jihadism.
In the case of Ohio State jihadi Abdul Artan, the question is how did a child once fleeing Somalia under the fear of death then embrace death when finally under the protection of the greatest superpower? Further, how did decades of experience as a refugee escaping persecution not deter Artan from the jihadi doctrine of death? Answering these questions requires understanding how violent ideology slips through the slightest cracks in the system.
America is dealing with a crushing rise of jihadi dark web chatter that privatizes radicalization. Indoctrination into a violent political ideology thrives through combination of secret portals and chat rooms like AMAQ on Telegram that provide safe online communities for jihadi talk. Instant radicalization paired with travel to or from red-flag nations, broken immigration vetting and tracking systems, lack of community emphasis on assimilation, and the politicization of mosques as polarizing hotspots, places individuals on a three month fast track to radicalization.
Just three months prior, Artan was featured in ‘Humans of Ohio State’ – a profile in the university’s student paper – that showed Artan hyper-focused on prayer spaces and identity politics. Three months later, he’s pledged allegiance to ISIS in a killing spree. We could conclude that time period of radicalization was just this brief– or we could, far more reasonably, conclude that Artan’s use of the left’s victimhood narratives dovetail quite comfortably with his jihadi beliefs.
That is the hard reality we’re faced with. Instead, talking points have shifted to Islamophobia as a public health crisis for Muslims. And rather than recognizing the victims, mainstream media is humanizing the attacker as a social outcast who “loved America.” That real problem is the killing sprees some Muslims are engaging in; it is not the mean words penciled and shoved into the mail slot at the local mosque. The inability of Muslims to recognize a present danger versus fear of a hypothetical threat, only further places all Americans at risk because it prevents us from being able to collectively move forward in dealing with radical Islam. It also places Muslim Americans at greater risk; the more Muslims deny the causal link between Islam and jihad, deflecting attention to a self-victimizing rhetoric, the more rest of America grows frustrated. It is also worth asking whether Muslim American organizations and communities that obstruct discourse and discovery by misdirecting away from real problems should be included in a broader perimeter of public inquiry. Instead of dealing with the most recent eruption of radical Islam, the issue is swept under the rug and upon it sits the incubus we call Islamophobia.
Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Islamist groups like CAIR, who could not step away from the abacus of Muslim grievances for just one day, continued tallying letters (real or scripted) rather than looking beyond themselves to see that Muslim American communities have a much bigger problem: radicalization.
In fact, across American there were only a handful of outlets and personalities that are pressing for truth in dialogue. This includes Conservative Review’s Carly Hoilman, who took to higher ground in a piece titled “Difficult Conversations: Challenging Islam in the Wake of the Ohio State Attack.”
It also includes Michelle Malkin who tweeted, “Ohio State University jihad has virtually disappeared from national headlines –except for the p.c. ‘Muslims fear backlash’ stories.” That pattern was also spotted by the The Foreign Desk, which noted dark web chatter was on the rise with talk hailing the attack and allegiance being shown in the form of profile pics replaced with a photo of Artan.
Being able to move forward means treating thought process behind this attack as a forensic scene that requires precision and analysis. That scene tells that that the only public health crisis an ideological virus with a three month incubation period. This means that the next attacker is set to be radicalized by Inauguration Day.
Studying that virus for actionable intelligence means observing how that strain has formed and how it influences another host. Yet, the Ohio State attack was one of the least exhaustively covered jihadist attack on American soil; due to the uncomfortable questions it raises, the media dropped the issue like a hot potato.
The implications of the attack encompassed key crisis points facing our nation and new administration, including immigration, travel to red-flagged state sponsors of terror, and questions of assimilation. Not only were these though questions glossed over, but the intelligence we could gain from them were missed opportunities, including:
1. Failing to look at the radicalization of the Somali Muslim community and its troubled history in the United States as one of the leading actors of domestic terror.
2. Waiting for ISIS to confirm the attack rather than moving proactively on the facts that jihad comes from the doctrine of war in Islam. That doctrine is not limited to ISIS. It will continue to be a problem long after ISIS is defeated – if it’s defeated.
3. Failing to spot that ISIS does not claim every attack; they prefer to take credit posthumously. ISIS didn’t claim three radicalized women in France who failed carry out attacks against Notre Dame, but it did claim radicalized women in Kenya. ISIS also didn’t claim New Jersey attacker Ahmad Khan Rahami, though the pattern of attack mirrors ISIS.
4. Failing to see that Ohio State attacker Adul Artan self-identified with ISIS in Facebook statement that called for the message being screen-grabbed before it was deleted. This is standard direction under ISIS to individual actors so that ISIS may identify the attack as a pledge. Those directions appear on page 12 of the latest issue of Rumiyah, an ISIS propaganda magazine.
5. Failing to identify the relevance of Artan’s pledge to ISIS versus Al-Shabab, a Somalia-linked terror group that, itself, in 2012 pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda. If the most popular Somali terror group is Al-Shabab, and the most popular Pakistani terror group is Al-Qaeda, what does it say that Artan would self-identify with ISIS? This is particularly noteworthy considering Artan’s family fled Somalia for Pakistan in 2007 before arriving to the United States in 2014. The desired affiliation with the most popular and coveted terror group on the planet right now – rather than the group associated with national identity – tells us that ISIS has come a long way from being a ‘JV team’ and has secured global appeal.
6. Failing to understand that when ISIS claims Artan as a soldier, they’re telling us that the face of war has shifted. Artan’s last online statement confirms that theirs is ideological war, born in an ideology, bursting kinetically through physical attacks. Their soldiers don’t wear uniforms and their war zone is the public space. Their targets are civilians.
7. The media and politicians’ premature resurrection of gun control debate in a desperate attempt to politicize the attack along the lines of their preferred policy solutions. Of course, it became that a knife and vehicle were also used as weapons in the attack.
8. Ignoring the correlation between attacks in Europe and Canada with the Ohio State attack, all of which follow the 2014 instructions of then ISIS chief spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani who called for mobilized attacks using any tool available, including weaponizing vehicles.
9. Ignoring those instructions to weaponized vehicles were again detailed as a call to action this past Thanksgiving, also shared in the most recent issue of Rumiyah.
10. Trusting the public face of the Muslim community rather than engaging in investigative journalism to discover the true nature of comments shared by Artan’s brother and his network of family and friends. His brother’s Facebook page shows almost zero awareness of the gravity of the attack, no denouncement of Artan’s actions as being against an Islam Muslims publically claim jihad has nothing to do with, and no sympathy for victims of the Ohio State attack.
Shireen Qudosi is a Muslim writer based in California.
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