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In A Largely Quiet Life, Tashfeen Malik Showed Some Signs Of Extremism
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In A Largely Quiet Life, Tashfeen Malik Showed Some Signs Of Extremism

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In A Largely Quiet Life, Tashfeen Malik Showed Some Signs Of Extremism

In A Largely Quiet Life, Tashfeen Malik Showed Some Signs Of Extremism
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Family once described Tashfeen Malik as a "modern girl." Last week she and her husband killed 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif. Authorities are investigating the killing as an act of terrorism. NPR's Lynn Neary speaks with Brian Bennett, who wrote a profile of Malik for the Los Angeles Times.

LYNN NEARY, HOST:

The couple at the center of the San Bernardino shootings had been leading a quiet, seemingly unremarkable life. Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik were new parents who got married after meeting online. Farook grew up in this country, but Malik was born in Pakistan. A profile in today's Los Angeles Times reveals there were some signs of extremism in Malik's life. We called Brian Bennett, a reporter at the Los Angeles Times who worked on the piece. He joins us now. Brian, thanks for being with us.

BRIAN BENNETT: Happy to be on the show.

NEARY: Now, Brian, the Times article describes her as a modern woman who became increasingly more religious. Can you tell us more about that transformation?

BENNETT: Malik grew up in Pakistan in a family that had some means and some political connections in Punjab, in the province that she grew up in. You know, she grew up in a part of the country that is generally religiously conservative but not necessarily in a family prone to violent extremism. Her relatives described her as a modern woman. And what they meant by that is someone who was educated. She had been studying pharmacology at a university in Pakistan, interested in the world around her and religion and encouraging other family members to be good Muslims. And they describe a transformation while she was in college of becoming more focused on her religion and more extreme in her views.

NEARY: Now, she spent part of her life in Saudi Arabia, is that right?

BENNETT: That's right. Her father had been working in Saudi Arabia. And she spent time going back and forth between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

NEARY: And how might the years she spent there have influenced her?

BENNETT: That's a big question mark for us right now. We want to know more about what her life was like in Saudi Arabia. Clearly, Saudi Arabia is an even more conservative culture than Pakistan, where she was brought up. Maybe there were things there that influenced her to take on more violent extremist views.

NEARY: One of her professors was quoted in the article as saying that she was an obedient girl. He really couldn't imagine how she had done this. Do you have any idea how she became so radicalized? Was she self-radicalized? Was she influenced by ISIS or any other of the extreme groups overseas?

BENNETT: Right now investigators haven't seen signs of a direct involvement of a terror group in her life. And so that indicates that she was self-radicalized. And it's - really important part of the transformation here in her life that we don't know that much about is how she went from being religiously conservative to being willing to use violence. And even more than that, how she learned to use things like a semi-automatic weapon or build pipe bombs if she was involved in that. That's a big question is whether she had training to do that or went to a firing range when she was in California.

NEARY: One other big question on my mind is does anyone know whether it was Malik who radicalized her husband or the other way around.

BENNETT: We don't know yet, but there are definitely indications that she had extremist views when she came to the U.S. last year on the fiance visa to join her husband. So it doesn't seem like he radicalized her. It may have been something that the two of them came to together or maybe he was seeking out someone who had extremist views like his. And that's something we need to figure out, and I think the authorities are going to try to look more at what their life was like when they were together inside the United States.

NEARY: That was Brian Bennett, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Thanks so much, Brian.

BENNETT: Happy to be with you.

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