By Arab News
By Rasheed Abou-Alsamh*
The bloody attack in San Bernardino, California, this week by Syed Rizwan Farook, 28 years old, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 27, left 14 dead and 21 wounded, and was apparently inspired by the terrorist group Daesh, to which Malik pledged allegiance to on Facebook, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
It is shocking and sad to see yet another mindless surge of violence visited upon innocent civilians in the West all supposedly in the name of Islam. But what sort of Muslims were Farook and Malik to have been so deluded into thinking that it was OK and the right thing to do, massacring and injuring so many of Farook’s work colleagues, including a fellow Muslim, who thankfully survived the attack?
And the couple left behind a six-month-old daughter, leaving her with Farook’s parents minutes before they shot to death the workers and patients who had come together at an end-of-the-year party.
They lied to Farook’s parents, saying they had to go to a doctor’s appointment. Farook attended the beginning of the party, acting normal, but then left and returned with his wife, both wearing flak jackets, masks and carrying large amounts of ammunition that they used in the attack.
From this it is clear that this was a well-planned attack, not a spur of the moment reaction to a possible misunderstanding that Farook could have had at the party with one of his coworkers. The FBI later found at least 12 pipe bombs in their home, large amounts of ammunition and supplies to make bombs. Obviously this couple were not the calm and nice husband and wife that everyone thought they were.
The FBI believes that the couple was most likely inspired by Daesh, and not acting on their direct orders. Daesh had in the past few months stopped calling for American Muslims to come fight in Syria, instead encouraging them to commit acts of violence at home in the United States.
Perhaps this is what Farook and Malik did, but it will probably be impossible to get a definitive answer since they deleted their digital trails, destroyed their cellphones and spoke very little to family members about their innermost thoughts and intentions.
So how to explain this orgy of violence, first a few weeks ago in Paris and now in San Bernardino? One western researcher of Islam and radicalism is the French academic Olivier Roy, who according to Emma-Kate Symons writing in Quartz.com believes that these attacks are a symptom of the alienation and generational gap that young Muslims in the West are experiencing. “Young men in their 20s and 30s committing mass murder and suicide in the name of Allah, the political scientist argues, are extreme manifestations of a ‘generational nihilistic radicalized youth revolt’ that is ‘more about the Islamization of radicalism than the radicalization of Islam,’” writes Symons.
Roy contends that this is a generalized youth revolt, and that those involved in the Paris attacks were of Arab origin but not religious. This is true, but Farook and Malik were both deeply observant Muslims, praying five times a day. Farook did not date American women, and found his bride on a Muslim matrimonial site online. So it seems that the siren-call of Daesh is being listened to by both frustrated, non-religious youth of Arab origin in Europe, and by apparently observant Muslims in the US.
This is where the leaders of the Muslim communities in the West must become alarmed and react quickly against the propaganda of Daesh, which turns the hurt feelings of some Muslims living in the West, of being discriminated against, into a destructive force that kills innocent civilians.
They must argue that Allah does not want his followers to kill civilians indiscriminately, and that the message of Islam is of peaceful coexistence with persons of other religions. If we do not embark on this urgent mission immediately, Muslims and Islam are forever going to be thought of as being intrinsically linked to violence in the minds of non-Muslims. The attacks of 9/11 have already produced so much anti-Muslim sentiment in the US and elsewhere. Let us not allow Daesh to do even more damage to Islam’s reputation.
*The writer is a Saudi journalist based in Brazil.