Guest Opinion: A terrorist attack crossroads
Thankfully, the 11 victims of a car and knife attack last week at Ohio State University are expected to survive. But while not the most deadly attack in recent memory, in many ways it presents a confluence of issues that President-elect Donald Trump must address immediately.
It is a convergence of radical Islam, Islamic State-inspired attacks at home and abroad, and anti-Islamic sentiment and violence against peaceful Muslims.
The Islamic State has claimed responsibility, calling the attacker one of its “soldiers,” although that is a term the Islamic State often uses to describe attacks around the world in which it has little involvement. No evidence of direct communication between the attacker and the group has been found in this case.
But what has become clear is that the attacker was at least inspired by the Islamic terror group. And while he may not have been a card-carrying member of the Islamic State, we must consider such radicalized zealots to be foot soldiers in an entirely new kind of war.
Moments before the attack, he tweeted, “We will not let you sleep unless you give peace to the Muslims. You will not celebrate or enjoy any holiday.”
After the attack, Trump took to Twitter, writing: “ISIS is taking credit for terrible stabbing attack at Ohio State University by a Somali refugee who should not have been in our country.”
It is true that the attacker grew up in Somalia and moved to Pakistan in 2007 before immigrating to the United States with his family in 2014 and becoming a permanent resident in 2015. But guilt by association is not what America was founded on, and should not be the basis of our immigration system.
Trump wasn’t the only one to respond rapidly. On the left, many were quick to blame guns for the tragedy, despite the fact that no gun was used in the attack. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted: “My thoughts are w/Ohio state this AM. We cannot let an average of 1 school shooting/wk be the norm in America.”
Interestingly, in August, the attacker was interviewed by The Lantern, the college’s student newspaper, for a vignette called “Humans of Ohio State.” In the article, he spoke of his concern for the treatment of Muslims in America, saying he feared retaliation for practicing his faith openly.
This particular attack crystalizes the challenge we face: dealing with Muslims radicalized by the Islamic State and other terrorists organizations while at the same time not blaming good people.
There is never an excuse for those who attempt to take the lives of innocent people, of course. Similarly we must understand that most in the Muslim community do not condone violence any more than do other citizens. Sadly, in recent weeks we have seen an uptick in anti-Muslim sentiment.
We must work for them as much as we work to protect others, not condemn large swaths of blameless people for the crimes of some. After all, the greatest numbers of victims of Muslim terror globally have been other Muslims.
Rather than playing to base fears, our leaders should be working together to come up with strategies that balance our need for security and privacy, taking the fight to groups like the Islamic State that inspire hate while also protecting civil liberties at home — and that includes the Muslim community.