In the deadliest mass shooting in the US since the Newtown school shooting in 2012, an armed couple fatally shot 14 people and wounded 21 at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, CA. The couple’s identities were Tashfeen Malik, 27, and Syed Rizwan Farrok, 28, who died in a confrontation with the police hours after the shooting.
Malik and Farrok reportedly sneaked into a holiday party at the social services center for people with disabilities last Wednesday afternoon and opened fire.
Police have not yet found a motive for the attack. The FBI are also investigating reports that Malik had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS) in a Facebook post under a different name. The post was subsequently removed by the company due to their policy of deleting posts that glorify or support acts of terrorism.
FBI spokesman David Bowdich said that they are trying to recover data from two crushed mobile phones thrown away near the attackers’ apartment, and the couple had “telephonic connections” with other people of interest to the authorities.
This incident stands out from other mass shootings in the US due to five reasons:
- More than one shooter
- A woman was involved
- Extensive planning for the attack
- Use of explosives along with guns
- Attempting to flee
You can read more about these reasons in this BBC article.
The incident has prompted diverse reactions from and towards the Muslim community.
According to an ABC Eyewitness News article, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH) has publicly denounced the shooting and all acts of terrorism by radical Muslims. ISGH president M.J. Khan said, “It is our job to make sure that we present the true picture of Islam, of Muslims.” His statement reflects a concern shared with many Muslims about the resulting spike in Islamophobia. Mustafaa Carrol, the Executive Director of CAIR Texas, reports receiving death threats after the San Bernardino shooting, and after other terrorist acts, including the Paris and Boston cases.
Another view laments how Islamic groups feel compelled to speak out after the violent attack. In a Huffington Post article, Krithika Varagur explains:
“[T]he fact that Farook’s family had to speak out against his crime the very day it happened underscores the Islamophobic tendencies of the media. Each time a violent attack is perpetrated by Muslims, the entire (billion-plus) Muslim population is essentially forced to distance themselves from it.”
Varagur contrasted this by pointing out how the communities of Christian, particularly white and male, mass murderers hardly feel the same collective responsibility.
Rep. Adam Schiff voiced a third view that the Muslim community is our ally in this “war in the 21st century”:
“I think Americans need to be reminded again and again that one of our strongest allies in the fight against radical Islam is the Muslim community, and the degree to which it condemns this violence and partners with law enforcement to identify people at risk of extremism.”
Bringing It Home
Last Thursday at noon, a crowd of over 100 people gathered at UCLA’s Meyerhoff Park to express their support for the Muslim students attending the university. The event, hurriedly whipped together by the Muslim Student Association at UCLA, saw various Muslim and non-Muslim students speak out against Islamophobia. The description for the Facebook event page declared that the purpose of the MSA Solidarity Rally was “to increase awareness of major recent Islamophobic events, as well as discuss ways in which UCLA students can support their fellow Muslim peers.”
I attended this event myself, and prior to this, I had very little exposure to the extent of Islamophobic sentiments in UCLA. The following is a record of what I learned at the rally and later:
Soon after the shooting on Wednesday, a UCLA student posted several hateful Twitter comments targeting a UCLA MSA alumnus who had a similar name to that of one of the San Bernardino shooters, claiming that he was related somehow to the incident. He posted MSA alumnus’s name, photo, and other private information on social media. The posts were later removed after action by the alumnus’s family, the MSA, and other organizations. The Solidarity Rally was partly a reaction to this incident.
One student was concerned about being insensitive towards people with disabilities, that it was “too soon.” Another student at the rally expressed displeasure about the atmosphere, asking why Muslim students should feel endangered by reactions to a violent act simply because the perpetrators were Muslims. UCLA’s Community Programs Office has offered its van escort services to students who feel unsafe walking home after the incident, as well as several other resources.
In any case, everyone seems to be crying out: why? Why are these steps necessary? Why did this happen?