© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Questions Surround Actions Of Calif. Mass Shooting Suspects


We've heard from one family member of a suspect in the San Bernardino shooting. A man described as a brother-in-law of a suspect spoke at a press conference hosted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations. We are joined now by the executive director of the Los Angeles Council on American-Islamic Relations, Hussam Ayloush. Welcome to the program, sir.

HUSSAM AYLOUSH: Thank you, Steve.

INSKEEP: So tell us about the suspects. Who were they?

AYLOUSH: Well, as far as we know, it's two individuals, a guy - a man - and his wife.

INSKEEP: Syed Rizwan Farook, 28 years old, and Tashfeen Malik, 27. And you said wife. We - we were uncertain of the relationship. You're saying they were married.

AYLOUSH: They were married. They've been married for two years. They have a young baby girl, 6-month-old baby girl, whom they left to the mother in the morning. They - they're in their upper 20s, both, as you mentioned. You know, according to the family, they had a good life. He had a good job. He was happy - you know, again, with a baby. They're shocked - completely shocked - by his actions. They just couldn't describe their sorrow. They're mourning with everybody else by the actions. And they wanted to make sure people heard that. That's why they decided to be a part of the press conference.

INSKEEP: Syed Rizwan Farook, it's said he was born in the United States. Do believe that to be the case?

AYLOUSH: Yes. According to his brother-in-law, Farhan Khan, he said Syed was born - Farook was born in the U.S., born in Illinois and most recently lived in California with his wife.

INSKEEP: The second or third generation immigrants?

AYLOUSH: Second-generation, his parents are originally from Southeast Asia, from Pakistan.

INSKEEP: Southeast Asia, Pakistan. Now, Tashfeen Malik, do you know if she was born in the United States?

AYLOUSH: She wasn't born - she was born in Pakistan and lived in Saudi Arabia until she was introduced to Syed Rizwan and eventually marrying him.

INSKEEP: Now, there's a very sensitive question here, which invites people to jump to conclusions. So let's just stress here, I'm asking this simply to get the facts and not saying what they mean. They're both Muslims. They were both Muslims. Is that correct?

AYLOUSH: They were both Muslims, yes.

INSKEEP: Is there any sense of what strand of that faith they were, whether they were particularly conservative or not?

AYLOUSH: You know, it's hard to tell. I've just met the family. I'm very active at the various mosques in the area - San Bernardino, Redlands, Corona, Riverside. And I call myself very devout. And I don't remember seeing him. He's definitely not one of the prominent active ones, not on the board, not in the community. But that doesn't mean much. Obviously, the family seems to be moderately religious, in a sense. They take their religion seriously - but no signs of any fanaticism, extremism, as far as I could tell from the ones that I met. I never met Rizwan or Syed Rizwan Farook. Again, I would also remind everyone that we don't know the motives yet.


AYLOUSH: You know, this could be a, you know, workplace rage. It could be a result of some instability, mental instability. Or it could be some twisted ideological belief. Either way, it's horrific. It should be condemned. There's absolutely no justification. And all American Muslims, including the family of Rizwan Farook, express their solidarity, their condolences, their prayers to the families and loved ones of the injured and the killed there.

INSKEEP: And just to gather information - and as you correctly note, not assigning motive because we do not know at this time - did either of them, according to their family members, have any particular political leanings at all?

AYLOUSH: No, they didn't seem like it. I asked that question, and they said no. And they were not that talkative about politics. When they socialize, it was about family, about kids. So it's hard to predict the motive now. You know, maybe - maybe a more thorough investigation by law enforcement might reveal something else. But as far as the family knew, there were no strong political or religious views either way.

INSKEEP: What are people thinking in the Muslim community in Southern California?

AYLOUSH: I'll be very frank with you. You know, every time there's a shooting, whether it's Colorado Springs or here, there's first - the first feeling is the feeling of sorrow, feeling of insecurity. We worry about our family members, our kids, our neighbors. But also, there's always the concern that what if that shooter is someone who claims to be Muslim? And then we'll have to deal with this, another new wave of Islamophobia (ph) - because there are those in our country who exploit these tragic events in order to promote hatred and bigotry against Islam and Muslims. You know, these things - unfortunately, these tragic events seem to be happening frequently around the country and around the world. Whether - again, Colorado Springs - Muslims or the rest of the country did not point the finger at all white people or all Christians because of the crime of one individual. But it seems the same courtesy, the same respect, is not always afforded to Muslims. And that's the concern that happens. That's why we decided to hold the press conference and allow fellow Americans to know that we stand united. We are in solidarity. And the only way we can prevail is by being together in face of such tragedies and such crimes.

INSKEEP: We're listening to Hussam Ayloush, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. Thanks very much for taking some time to talk with us this morning, appreciate it.


Also with us is Paul Barrett. He is an editor at Bloomberg Businessweek. He's the author of "Glock: The Rise of America's Gun." Mr. Barrett, from what you just heard, does that - does that take you anywhere in trying to understand what has happened?

PAUL BARRETT: It underscores the fact that a husband-wife team - if, in fact, that's what we're dealing with here - is an unusual factor in one of these mass killings. The fact that the woman was born in Pakistan, spent time in Saudi Arabia, I think will no doubt be of interest to law enforcement, since Saudi Arabia - and Pakistan, for that matter - are both fonts of fundamentalism and extreme ideological movements. But that said, I don't think we can conclude from that generalization...


BARRETT: That these particular people were subject to those things. We just have to wait and see.

WERTHEIMER: Thanks very much. Paul Barrett, who is joining us from New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.