MULTAN, Pakistan (AP) — The woman who carried out last week’s mass shooting in California with her husband had attended an Islamic religious school or madrassa while she was living in Pakistan, intelligence officials and the school said Monday.
Few details have emerged about Tashfeen Malik’s life in Pakistan, where she lived from 2007 to 2014 before she left for the United States on a fiancee visa. Malik studied pharmacy at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in the central city of Multan where she got a degree in 2013.
While in Multan, she also attended a religious school, which Pakistani intelligence officials on Monday identified it as the Al-Huda International Seminary. The school is a women-only madrassa with a chain across Pakistan and branches in the U.S. and Canada, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.
Al-Huda’s founder, Farhat Hashmi, who now lives in Canada, has been criticized for promoting a conservative strain of Islam, though the school has no known links to extremists. In Pakistan, it is mostly popular among upper middle class and urban Pakistani women interested in Islamic studies.
Malik spent more than a year at Al-Huda, taking classes six days a week, the school’s spokeswoman Farrukh Chaudhry told The Associated Press.
She enrolled in a two-year course to learn the Muslim holy book, Quran, its translation and interpretation but did not finish the course, Chaudhry added. Malik was a student there from April 17, 2013 until May 3, 2014, when she handed in her last paper in the first-year curriculum, the spokeswoman said.
“According to our records, this girl didn’t complete the course,” Chaudhry said, speaking over the phone from the southern port city of Karachi where she is based. “She told us that she was going to get married in two months, and after that she will leave for America.”
Malik promised to complete her studies by mail correspondence but that never happened, Chaudhry said.
“I have talked to her teachers, her classmates and everybody says she was a hardworking, friendly, helpful and obedient student,” Chaudhry said, adding that according to what the staff and students told the spokeswoman, “no one ever noticed any signs of radicalization in her.”
One of the teachers at the seminary, Aalia Qamar, said Malik attended classes regularly, and introduced three or four of her friends to the school. She asked many questions in class about religion and at times debated religious matters with teachers and classmates.
On Monday, Pakistani police barred local and international media from entering the pharmacy department where Malik studied. Police inspector Muhammad Ali said the reporters did not have valid documents to work in the city.
The university administration deployed extra private security guards outside the facility and after an argument with some reporters, university security officials called in the police. The police escorted the two journalists out of the campus.
Malik and her American-born husband Syed Farook were killed in a shootout with police, hours after they opened fire with assault rifles on a gathering of Farook’s colleagues last Wednesday in San Bernardino, California, killing 14 people.
The FBI said Friday that it is investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism. If the massacre was inspired by Islamic extremism, it would be the deadliest such attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001.
Shahzad reported from Islamabad.
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