Is Islamophobia creating terrorists? This is a question that many don't dare to ask. But ask we must. The argument that Rizwan Farook was having at his work Christmas party, over the nature of Islam, many of us has had. Many of us have felt alone and alienated after being inflicted with that sort of racism passed as political debate. If somebody says 'Islam' and 'violent' in the same sentence, nowadays I try to walk away. And I'm not a fan of the religion by any stretch. Nor do I have much nationalism or pride about anything but my children, but I still get very angry when I detect Islamophobia.
Maybe it is loyalty to my ever devout and infinitely kind nanny by whose side I sat for many prayers growing up in my native Tehran. In fact, I've seen something new in me ever since I have experienced Islamophobia, and that is a certain softening up to Islam of my ancestors.That very patriarchal Islam that I criticized so much, that I shed, that I fled is not something about which, I would normally feel defensive. So you can imagine what Islamophobia can do to a proud young man or woman believer who isn't an atheist like me. I don't want to justify anyone joining Daesh or Al Qaeda, I just want to understand why. I want to put myself in the shoes of Rizwan's mom, a hyphenated American like me, and ask the question: why?
How would a woman like Tashfeen Malik, drop her baby off at her mother in law's knowing she would never see her again? Surely, this kind of selfless abandon to a cause is scary. But the question has to be asked why? What did Tafsheen see growing up, what kind of life did she have to turn her into an anti-American killer of such a proportions. Are these kids brainwashed so thoroughly that they can give up their babies and walk straight into certain death? How? Tafsheen also came from Pakistan but was a new arrival on these shores. We don't know what baggage she brought with her, what damage, what vulnerability had turned her radical.
But Rizwan was raised in California, in the public school system, how could he have turned against the society that hosted him and his family, so entirely? He was an American kid, who wasn't very popular in high school according to a friend. But that is normal for all those who don't fit into the jock culture of the American high school. He wasn't exposed to war or hardship, why did he turn? Was he brainwashed? Was he angry? Why was he so angry as to drop off his six-month-old daughter with his mom and go off with his wife, on a killing rampage and face certain death? This is some kind of Bonnie and Clyde on testosterone! A new chapter in American violence?
If we don't seek the reason why Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik turned to jihadism we have failed as a society. He could be my son or yours, a graduate of La Sierra High School in Riverside, California. A second generation American, with a good job, and family members who lived near. We have to look into the reason our children turn into terrorists. He was not crazy a nut head, this guy had a college degree and a good job. Rizwan was one of an army of angry young citizens in the West who, for one reason or another, become attracted to Jihadi ideology to such a point that they are ready to drop their baby off with mom and proceed to a killing rampage and their certain death. Rizwan Farook was exposed to daily racist attacks and Islamophobia. The reason he and his new wife shot up the center, and not a bigger target like they were probably planning to hit, was because of an argument regarding Islam with at least one coworker, a messianic Jew, now murdered, Nicolas Thalasinos, who seems to have had arguments with him about Islam regularly.
No one on the news channels or in most of the articles I've read so far dares to talk much about the fight Rizwan Farook had before he stormed off to come back with his wife and arsenal in tow. Why? Perhaps because that would humanize him into an employee gone berserk after an argument. Granted that the arsenal and the Facebook message left by Tashfeen indicate that they were indeed inspired by ISIS. But why is an American with 70k a year, a decorated Navy brother, and a six-month-old daughter, radicalized in such a way? It is high time we assessed the damage caused by Islamophobia. It is high time we asked, is Islamophobia creating homegrown American jihadists?