Muslims say the San Bernardino shooting is a crucial moment

When Mahmoud Tarifi learned the name of a suspect in Wednesday’s San Bernardino shooting, his heart sank. He said he knew the man may have been Muslim.

After officials announced that Syed Farook was a suspect, members of the faith’s community shared their sense of grief and concern.

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Tarifi, a leader at the Islamic Center of Claremont, said American Muslims are accustomed to being targeted and scapegoated whenever violent Islamic extremists commit attacks.

"Every Muslim worries about being victimized," he said. "It's how we felt after 9/11 and after the Paris attacks."

Aslam Abdullah, a Muslim scholar based in San Bernardino, felt a familiar pang in his stomach upon hearing the news.

"It depresses us more than anyone ... when someone who identifies with our faith is the suspect," he said.

Abdullah said the shooting marked "a crucial moment" for the Muslim community, one that would allow them to show that they are just as disgusted with the violence as anyone else.

"Now Islam and Muslims are on trial again," he said. "The Muslim community does not approve of terror. To associate it with all Muslims would be absurd."

Late Wednesday night, the Greater Los Angeles Area office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California held a news conference with leaders of the Muslim community to condemn the incident and extend sympathies to victims.

“We condemn this horrific and revolting attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured,” CAIR-LA Executive Director Hussam Ayloush said in a statement.

“The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.”

Farhan Khan, who said he was a brother-in-law of suspect Syed Farook, also spoke at the event.

"The reason I am here is to express [for] my family … how sad they are for what happened," said Khan, who said he was the husband of one of Farook's sisters. "I'm very sad people lost their lives and there are victims out there."

Asked whether Farook was religious, Khan declined to comment.

Tarifi said the public should not jump to conclusions based solely on Farook’s name or faith.

"His name is Syed Farook, but that doesn't mean he's necessarily a terrorist," Tarifi said.

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