Couple whom FBI, Obama call terrorists were once a ‘happy bride’ and her ‘sweet’ husband

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Tashfeen Malik is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the FBI,

Tashfeen Malik is pictured in this undated handout photo provided by the FBI,

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. (Reuters) – Two years ago, Tashfeen Malik was a new bride radiating beauty and happiness at a reception for hundreds at a California mosque to celebrate her marriage to Syed Rizwan Farook.

On Friday, people attending prayers at the same mosque struggled to reconcile their memories of that happy event with news that Farook, 28, and Malik, 29, killed 14 people in a shooting rampage Wednesday in the city of San Bernardino. Both died in a later shootout with police, and the FBI is investigating the massacre as an “act of terrorism.”

The Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, stopped short of claiming responsibility for the violence, however, on it’s Al-Bayan daily broadcast it said, “Two followers of Islamic State attacked several days ago a center in San Bernardino in California.

The Islamic State report praised the attack, but did not characterize Syad Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, 27, as members of the group.

In his Saturday radio address, President Obama said the attacks show a need to “prevent people from falling victim to these hateful ideologies.”

“It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror. And if so, it would underscore a threat we’ve been focused on for years — the danger of people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies,” Obama said.


READ: ‘Own it!’ Terrorism is an Islamic issue, say some Muslims


Malik was brought to Southern California from Saudi Arabia by Farook. A native of Pakistan, she appears to have left a less visible footprint here than her U.S.-born husband, who had a public sector job and family here. They left behind a 6-month-old daughter.

“She was a beautiful lady. She was very happy that night,” said Nasima Nila, 31, who attended the reception at the Islamic Center of Riverside. “She was a new bride.”

She was also very quiet. Attendees recalled that at the celebration, where women and men were separated, Malik quietly sat on a couch on the women’s side of the mosque and said little other than thanking community members for their congratulations and answering simple questions if asked, Nila said.

She was speaking English that night, community members recalled, and mostly interacted with relatives.

Nila said she never saw Malik after the reception, which mosque director Mustafa Kuko said 250 to 300 people attended. Some of the men knew Farook said they had never met his wife.

On Friday, social media network Facebook confirmed that comments praising Islamic State were posted around the time of the mass shooting to a Facebook account established under an alias by Malik. However, it was uncertain whether the comments were posted by Malik herself.


READ: Muslim civil rights advocates see the limitations of social media activism


Between 2012 and 2014, Farook would come to the mosque twice a day – for the morning prayers, as early as 4:30 a.m. and evening prayers after work – said the mosque’s director, Mustafa Kuko, and asked for his blessing before going to Saudi Arabia to marry Malik.

A federal law enforcement official told the Los Angeles Times that Farook had some type of contact with people from at least two militant organizations overseas — the al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front in Syria and the radical al Shabaab group in Somalia.

But people who knew him at area mosques had no idea.

That they knew of him was that he loved cars and would often perform free oil changes for people in the parking lot.

Amir Abdul-Jalil, 50, said he was good friends with Farook. He said he was one of the “sweetest Muslims I ever met” and that Farook had invited him over for dinner one night a couple years ago, before he was married.

Abdul-Jalil said he met Malik once, but did not speak with her beyond exchanging pleasantries.

“I loved this brother and I’m so hurt today,” Abdul-Jalil said. “I can’t believe that the guy I knew would do this.”

A police officer stands watch as people leave Friday prayers at the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah-Amer mosque where shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook was seen two to three times a week at lunch time, in San Bernardino, California REUTERS/Mike Blake

A police officer stands watch as people leave Friday prayers at the Dar Al Uloom Al Islamiyah-Amer mosque where shooting suspect Syed Rizwan Farook was seen two to three times a week at lunchtime, in San Bernardino, Calif. REUTERS/Mike Blake

At another area mosque, the Dar-Al-Uloom Al-Islamiyah, where Farook went more recently about two to three times a week, Gasser Shehata said he knew Farook to be “a very quiet person, more on the shy side.”

Shehata also attended the wedding reception, which he described as jovial, and said Farook was delighted with his new daughter.

“When he had the baby, he was extremely happy,” Shehata said. “If something happened to him, it happened very recently, in the last 30 to 60 days.”

Attendance at Friday prayers at both mosques was thinner than usual and some members said their family and friends had advised them against going for fear of a violent backlash.

Afarin Rahmani, 44, said she felt “guilty” that someone from her community was responsible for the shootings.

“People blame us with everything going on. You start to feel guilty,” she said. “I would have taken the bullet. We are all afraid of the same things.”

 

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  • PeterVN

    I think a very appropriate quote here is:

    “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

    -by Steven Weinberg, Nobel laureate in Physics

  • I have a hard time buying that this couple could be known as “a ‘happy bride’ and her ‘sweet’ husband,” yet they were so ferociously radicalized as to have armed themselves with multiple firearms, body armor, and created their own bomb factory. It just doesn’t compute. How could they have been so successful at shielding their intentions, when such intentions can only be the product of anger and sanctimony, which are perhaps the two most difficult emotions for people to hide?

    Sorry, but I can only figure that these folk did notice some “red flags” which they never acted on, but in light of what happened, they’re now professing not to have seen, in order to protect themselves from criticism. (Note, I believe much the same about Robert Dear, who shot up a P.P. clinic in Colorado; I can’t see how he was able to hide his outrage either. The only difference is that he was a recluse and didn’t deal with many people, but those he did, must have known something was up.)

  • larry

    I would normally agree with that, but both husband and wife were the maniacs here. The one person most likely to have picked up on signs of mass murdering madness here, would be the spouse. In this case the spouse would take on the role of an enabler.

    Killer couples are not unusual. Apart neither of them would have likely been murderous but together they reach critical mass. (ie Bonnie and Clyde, Leopold & Loeb, The Hillside Stranglers…)

    Outside of the guy’s mother who did babysitting, one wonders how much real contact they had with others. Since both the husband and wife were the killers here, it would be easy for them to acquire and store firearms and equipment without provoking suspicion of people closest to them. “Honey, my sister is coming over, remember to put the AR-15 in the gun safe, while I make lunch”

  • Re: “Outside of the guy’s mother who did babysitting, one wonders how much real contact they had with others.”

    Yes, the mother … I’d love to know what she knew and when she knew it. As for the couple, he definitely with the county, and she apparently was a pharmacist or pharmacy technician and may have been working (but I’m not sure).

    At any rate, as I said, the sheer amount of anger and sanctimony they both obviously felt must have been noticeable to others. I simply don’t buy that it wasn’t. It’s entirely possible some of the folks in this article knew something was up, but for reasons of their own, chose not to do anything about it.

  • Clarification: “… he definitely with the county …” should be “he definitely worked with the county.”

  • Larry

    In the typical “worker gone postal” incidents, co-workers never put the pieces together until after the fact. “He was always such a quiet guy, always kept to himself….” People can be pretty oblivious.

    Plus someone crazy enough to murder random people is probably pretty good at suppressing rage in public. As a killer couple, I would think there was bit of enablement going on. Minor annoyances can easily get amplified to seething rage with a little encouragement from the spouse.

  • RickC

    No, I prefer another quote: “religion makes bad people worse and good people better.” Who’s to say someone is good just because they follow a religion?

  • Sue

    RickC, No, Steven W is correct and your quotation is just plain wrong re good people. Look closely and maybe you’ll grok the difference.

  • Actually in most of those “going postal” examples, there have been previous incidents, even confrontations. The whole “he was such a quiet guy” thing is usually a post hoc effort to explain why nothing was done. Which I think is precisely what’s going on here.

    I get that people who intend to go on a murder spree are going to suppress overt expressions of rage … but that’s still a powerful emotion, especially when accompanied by sanctimony, which means it’s going to “dribble out” in ways the person either can’t control or isn’t aware might be giving him/her away. I simply do not buy that they were able to pull off what is, essentially, “the ‘perfect’ con job.” I just don’t. I think they were giving themselves away at various points, and people either noticed, but did nothing, or were oblivious, which is understandable but still not a valid excuse.

  • Larry

    I think we are in general agreement here.

    I am certain the signs were there. I am also certain mostly likely nobody picked up on them just out of basic nature and obliviousness.

    I think people are generally not disposed to taking impending signs of a worker “going postal” all that seriously. Its more horrifying than most people are willing to accept as part of their daily routine, “Nah he wouldn’t do that.”

    Plus I am thinking the wife probably enabled and encouraged things beyond what would have been in the workplace. There is a chance he was more passive and co-dependent than angry. The wife may have been the one with the more outward signs of rage. Women from her background would be used to avoiding outward displays in public, where such things bring horrific penalties.

    Toxic couples can enable actions together that they would be unwilling to do individually. (See In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, or film versions thereof)

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