LOS ANGELES —
A motive behind the mass shootings that left 14 people dead in San Bernardino, California is still unknown.
But when police named Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, as suspects responsible for Wednesday's shooting, Mustafa Kuko, director of the Islamic Center of Riverside, said he could not believe it.
The local Muslim leader and others who knew Farook say they were shocked to learn someone they saw as devout would be involved.
Part of the investigation is to find out who the husband and wife suspects were. The couple, who had left their 6-month-old baby with relatives before the shooting, were killed in a gun battle with police following the attack on a holiday party.
“I was very much demoralized," Kuko said. "I was shocked and I felt a sense of betrayal that something like that comes from a Muslim who has been taught here and elsewhere probably that Islam is totally against this kind of errant behavior."
He described Farook as a quiet and nice person who liked to repair cars and who had attended Kuko's mosque for a couple of years before moving away in 2014.
Farook even held his wedding reception at the Islamic Center of Riverside, he said. Kuko remembered Farook telling him about Malik before he married her.
"(Farook said) he got a nice, good, righteous, religious woman, a young woman originally from Pakistan,” Kuko said.
Kuko said Farook used to come to the mosque daily.
“I was surprised that such a horrific act comes from someone who is very religious, very committed, and he appears to be someone who is a righteous person,” he said.
Farook’s relatives were also shocked, said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Los Angeles.
“They tried calling him, calling the wife; nobody was answering; they panicked, thinking, 'Oh my God, maybe he’s shot, maybe he’s wounded,' ” Ayloush said.
He said ever since police released the names of the shooting suspects, there has been backlash against the Muslim community.
“We’re seeing unfortunately a lot of scapegoating of Muslims, a lot of hate messages going to mosques, death threats to us individually, our phones. We’ve received a lot of death threats,” Ayloush said.
While he has also received messages of support, Ayloush said Muslims are being unfairly judged by some because of the actions of fringe elements in society.
“I cannot expect any Christian to have to defend when some crazy person commits a crime. I cannot expect a Jewish person or Jewish community to do so," Ayloush said. "And we should not expect American Muslims or Muslims around the world to do so.
"Let’s judge communities by their teachings, by their actions as a community as a whole,” he said.
The Muslim community at the largest mosque in San Bernardino County held a multifaith prayer vigil for the victims of the shootings and condemned what happened.
“It can be exhausting to always condemn acts and to do it over and over like an echo chamber on repeat; but, I personally believe that despite the growing Islamaphobia which is very real, we need to be introspective as an American Muslim community,” said Amjad Mahmood Khan of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
To fight the negative views on Islam, Khan said members of the Muslim community need to continue to send the message that they oppose any acts of extremism and violence.