When I introduced myself, Artan initially seemed surprised. It was his actual first day of classes at Ohio State, as he had just transferred to one of the largest college campuses in the country from a community college nearby. But he opened up quickly. He was soft-spoken, in a slightly accented voice, and friendly.
In a 20-minute, wide-ranging conversation, Artan told me about his major in logistics management. He told me about his family fleeing Somalia when he was about 10 years old ”” including fuzzy memories of his native, war-torn land ”” and then about living for years in Pakistan and how much he enjoyed it. He bemoaned what he felt were western misconceptions about Pakistan: “It’s not like people believe.” He told me about his family’s journey once they got to the United States just a few years earlier, first spending some time in Dallas before coming to Columbus, which has a large and vibrant Somali expat community.
Artan spoke calmly but seriously about his acute awareness of what he saw as major American misconceptions about Islam, his religion. From memory, he ticked off examples of Islamophobia that garnered media attention, such as the police being summoned because a man in Avon, Ohio, was speaking Arabic in a parking lot or when a college student was removed from a plane after he said “Inshallah” in a phone conversation with his uncle.
Read it all from the Washington Post.