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San Bernardino Shooter Was A 'Modern Girl' Who Recently Radicalized

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As the investigation into the motives behind Wednesday's horrific mass shooting in San Bernardino continues to unfold, more information is being dug up about the personal history of the gunwoman, Tashfeen Malik.

A profile by the L.A. Times finds that her family in Pakistan are stunned by her involvement, especially considering her radicalization was a somewhat recent development.

One family member, from Malik's hometown in Karor Lal Esan, Pakistan told the Times:

After a couple of years in college, she started becoming religious. She started taking part in religious activities and also started asking women in the family and the locality to become good Muslims. She started taking part in religious activities of women in the area....She used to talk to somebody in Arabic at night on the Internet. None of our family members in Pakistan know Arabic, so we do not know what she used to discuss.
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Hafza Batool, Malik's aunt, told a BBC correspondent that the family was stunned. "She was so modern. I do not know what had happened to her. She brought a bad name to our family," Batool said.

In an interview with the Washington Post one of Malik's close friends from pharmacology school, Abida Rani, said that around 2009, Malik's religious studies intensified. Rani said that Malik would travel across town to a madrassa that belonged to the Wahhabi branch of Sunni Islam, a particularly conservative branch that's widely practiced in Saudi Arabi, where Malik spent much of her youth.

"We were like, 'What happened to Malik?'" said Rani. "She became so religious, so serious and so focused on Islamic teachings, and she lost her interest in her studies."

The Washington Post continues:

During her final year at the university, Malik became so rigid in her conservative Islamic religious beliefs that she refused a staple of college life: getting photographed. When Malik graduated from pharmacy school, she tried to remove all of her pictures from university databases. She collected all of her university identification and library cards and destroyed them. “I don’t want any pictures without the veil,” Malik said, according to Rani.

But, even this wasn't all that unusual. Local residents of the university, located in Multan, Pakistan, say that about half of the female students at the school were fully veiled. Plus, Malik kept quiet about her beliefs. "She never said to others: 'You should do this or you should that,'" one of Malik's professors, Khalid Janbaz said. "I don’t see any evidence how she could move from that into a shooter."

When Malik graduated from college in 2012, she moved back to Saudi Arabia, and eventually met her future husband Syed Rizwan Farook, online. They married in 2014 in Mecca, before Malik joined Farook in San Bernardino. The couple's attorney told the Times, "Tashfeen was an individual who kept to herself most of the time," and stayed home with the baby, as is typical for a "traditional" Muslim household, he said. None of Farook's co-workers met his wife.

Malik's family said once she moved to the U.S., she began posting extremist messages on Facebook, which caused them concern. Right before the attack, officials say Malik also posted on Facebook, pledging her allegiance to the Islamic State.

While the families of the shooters are stunned, the couple was praised by ISIS for the shooting, referred to as "martyrs."

Click here for more of LAist's coverage of the San Bernardino shooting.

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