Why is Pakistan silent about the San Bernardino shooting?

Published: December 4, 2015

The latest incident in California involves a couple of Pakistani descent and the emerging details unfortunately reveal at least some role of Islamic radicalisation.

The latest incident in California involves a couple of Pakistani descent and the emerging details unfortunately reveal at least some role of Islamic radicalisation. A couple embraces following a shooting that killed multiple people at a social services facility, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Bernardino, California. PHOTO: AP

A flurry of recent incidents involving Islamic extremists – the latest being the shooting in California involving a couple of Pakistani descent – has put Muslims under the critical spotlight in much of the developed world. Such incidents, due to their visibility and shock value, often end up getting a tremendous amount of negative media attention.

This has resulted in xenophobic reactions from some political and media quarters. Many do not understand that Islam is not a monolithic faith and not every Muslim is identical. To view the entire Muslim world through the prism of extremist organisations like Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which is a fringe organisation, is unfair and even logically flawed. However, unfortunately, such a tendency prevails in the West and has resulted in negative stereotyping and over generalisation.

Let me admit upfront that this is wrong and condemnable and entails real negative consequences.

In recent times, there have been incidents involving harassment and discriminatory behaviour towards Muslims ranging from a kid being arrested for a making a clock to shooting of three Muslims at Chapel Hill.

Outcry from the Muslims over such incidents has obviously always been really enormous. In fact, when the 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for making a clock (mistaken for a bomb), outcry from the Muslim community was really huge. I lost counts of Facebook statuses of my friends, criticising the so-called US discrimination against Muslims. Our electronic media also lapped up the story further enhancing our collective sense of victimhood.

Yes, what happened to Ahmed was wrong, but what happened to him in the aftermath of his arrest is worth noting. He was invited to White Houseoffered admission by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and there was also an expression of apology from many in the US. If his arrest showed xenophobia (which no doubt exists to some measure), the aftermaths also revealed the other side of the US. However, many of us who had been fuming over his arrest simply overlooked the subsequent developments.

While we certainly reserve the right to protest over the discriminatory treatment meted out to some Muslims, what concerns me is our own constant denial and utter lack of condemnation of Muslim extremism. Whenever an incident involving Muslims as perpetuators happens, all of us are either stunned into silence or start trying to deflect or even worse, trivialise.

After the Paris attacks, instead of condemnation, our major focus was on proving the so-called hypocrisy of the West due to their “selective outrage”. The fact that western media would obviously be covering their own tragedy was lost on us. We also overlooked the fact that France was a western country attacked by Muslim extremists and hence it was natural that this fact would be reflected in the media coverage.

Thus, even a clear aggression against the French, instead of drawing condemnation, actually prompted us to lodge complains and reemphasise our collective sense of victimhood. This in fact has become an established pattern that we complain when even something minor happens targeting Muslims and yet try to deflect and trivialise when our own indulge in hideous acts. And unfortunately, it is apparently the so-called moderate Muslims who display such behaviour. I still remember the way Pakistanis displayed immense hatred towards Malala Yousafzai rather than towards those who shot her.

This kind of denial and trivialisation is deeply problematic as it hinders self-introspection and worse ends up giving “soft” support to the extremists. The problem of extremism can only be countered if the opposition comes from within, but our present collective behaviour is, unfortunately, completely counterproductive.

In fact, our collective behaviour also ends up lending support to those who are xenophobic in the West as they are able to claim that the problem of religious extremism is not restricted to a minority of Muslims, but in varying extent and form, affects a substantial majority. It allows them to say, and with some credibility, majority of Muslims due to their lopsided reactions and constant denial, are actually complicit.

The latest incident in California involves a couple of Pakistani descent and the emerging details unfortunately reveal at least some role of Islamic radicalisation. At this point, we as Pakistanis should wholeheartedly condemn their act. Condemning does not mean that we have to apologise, it merely means that we are outraged and do not endorse such behaviour.

A few days ago, when there was a story that a Pakistani taxi driver was shot, the entire country was outraged and called it a shameless hate crime. Our newspapers and electronic media gave it extensive coverage. And yet, I witness a strange silence and lack of condemnation when we find that a Pakistani is involved in similar kind of hate crime. We are ready to feel angry and in fact display that anger when a Pakistani is attacked and yet when a Pakistani is involved in extremist behaviour, we feel that it is unfair for the West to expect us to even condemn it.

We need to condemn it wholeheartedly and without any ifs and buts. Silence in these highly volatile times will be construed as complicity. We also need to condemn it because the latest incident has put Pakistani Americans and for that matter American Muslims in precarious situation and they feel extremely vulnerable. Politicians like Donald Trump are going to lap up this opportunity to whip up further hate against Muslims and Pakistanis, and our lack of condemnation will only give them further ammunition.


Raza Habib Raja

The author is a recent Cornell graduate and currently pursuing his PhD in political science at Maxwell School, Syracuse University. He has also worked for a leading development finance institution in Pakistan. He is a freelance journalist whose works have been published at Huffington Post, Dawn (Pakistan), Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Pak Tea House. He tweets @razaraja (twitter.com/razaraja?lang=en)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sami

    Syed Rizwan Farooq is a born and bred American. He visited Pakistan once or twice in his life time. So why we should own this individual and why some individuals are hell bent on naming him a Pakistani only. How he failed to become a Normal American citizen is case study for American officials. He was living in a place in America predominated by Arab radicals. So Americans should clear this mess first and there is no reason for self-shame for us.

    Also Pakistanis have a disease of associating themselves with Arabs. Believe me Arabs hate us. CAIR which represent Muslims in American states quickly stated that he is Not Arab and he is a Pakistani. Many Arabs even CAIR members are bad mouthing Pakistanis right now. Some days ago they were silent when Arabs went on rampage in Paris. Now the CAIR is putting the blame on Pakistanis and disowning them so that whole attention should be concentrated on Pakistanis and Arabs remain scott-free.Recommend

  • Allah Hafiz

    I dont think this shooting including Faisal Shahzad london bombing,Afiya siddiqui,Bangkok bombings where pakistanis were caught….these are not due to kashmir issue…..Kashmir is actually not the issue like some pakistanis call that all their problems of terrorism will end when kashmir issue is solved….problem is something else…and one risk factor is synonymous among all these mess created all over the world…The problem was never afghanistan…it was actually pakistan…..Recommend

  • Jayman

    Pakistan’s goose is cooked.Recommend

  • Pin2

    Muslims should unite against the atrocities and oppression face by Palestinians.Recommend

  • RameshHeg

    Very weak arguments, nothing new.
    Compared to how Muslims treat their minorities, Muslims get treated 1000 times better in non-Muslim countries. Small incidents are overblown to be “Islamophobia” but you give constitutionally guaranteed 3rd class non-citizenship in Pakistan for example. Muslims start whining, demanding special privileges and giving trouble to the majority communities as soon as their percentage exceeds>1%, sometimes sooner.

  • Rationalist Central

    Hmm. Then, most muslims believe these are are the end of days.Recommend

  • Given the convoluted arguments in this write-up, I am surprised the author managed to graduate from one noted university and got into another. The logical continuum on which he places events and reactions is not borne out by reason, and the connection he has drawn between individual culpability and collective complicity is tenuous at best.Recommend

  • Rohan

    Because most Pakistanis are not different from these 2 shootersRecommend

  • whatever

    because Pakistan is still confused whether they were a good terrorist or the bad one. no wonder if some pakistanis came out in the support of those who killed innocents in the name of their peaceful religionRecommend

  • Swaadhin

    “We are ready to feel angry and in fact display that anger when a Pakistani is attacked..”

    A Muslim should not simply be mistreated, harmed or killed by a non Muslim, that would be the right way to put it else how would you justify the protests against America for killing Osama.

    As far as Pakistanis making news for wrong reasons is concerned, I don’t think they even care about it because they are convinced this is one big conspiracy against Muslims.

    A good blog though but it will have zero impact because you are not a muezzin in a mosque who have the greatest hold over Muslim masses.Recommend

  • sterry

    I am sorry but I disagree with your assessment. Pakistanis in North America who are law abiding citizens condemn these murders in unequivocal terms but I do not feel any personal guilt for the acts of a crazed man and his gullible wife just because I share their ancestry. I feel sad as a human being that another human being could be so senseless – not a personal guilt because I share his ethnicity ! Civilized society does not adhere to community guilt nor guilt by association when others have not done anything. The shooter is clearly a criminal and his act was outrageous but you forget that he was a born and bred American. If he was radicalized, American authorities need to ensure that other Americans do not follow his path. It matters little that his ethnic background was from anywhere in the world because I have yet to see individual European or African countries apologize whenever an American of whatever heritage commits an act of mass murder. Should Italians apologize for the child murders committed by Adam Lanza who went on a rampage at the Sandy Hook school killing 20 kids? The San Bernadino killer’s crazed wife may have been a Pakistani living in Saudi Arabia but the facts have yet to come out but I think the real issue is the gun culture in the US where there is at least one mass shooting every day of the year.Recommend

  • Jasvinder Singh Marwaha

    Why are Muslims in conflict everywhere including in Islamic countries?Recommend

  • Brutus

    “Why is Pakistan silent about the San Bernardino shootings?
    Well, we’re silent as our throats went sore because of our relentless shrieking n’ shouting in protest at the ongoing “intolerance” in our evil neighbor, known as India! Otherwise, I am sure, we would’ve given ample time to ponder over the fact that, the both of the perpetrators of the ‘Bernardino massacre’ were of Pakistani origin. Moreover, one of them, the “Jihadi Bride”, not only owned a Pakistani passport, but also pledged her love and allegiance to the Abu-Bakr-al-Baghdadi! However, these’re just trivial issues, our main concern is Modi and his India! Both of them are evil and pose a great threat, not only to the Umma but also to the ‘land of the pure’ itself.
    Therefore, why make such a big deal about the ‘Bernardino massacre’? A few bombings here and a few shootings there, aren’t going to make much of a difference, the important issue at hand is, how to make India “tolerant”? Ain’t it !!Recommend

  • 19640909rk .

    @ Raza,

    its nice to read such a balanced article.Recommend

  • MJ

    Most of the people from Pakistan when exposed to these kind of events turn away claiming that it was a covert operation, a conspiracy or a false flag operation. Not every negative event in the world involving Muslims can be blamed on the above mentioned terms. We should be honest enough to embrace our bad along with those who are being wronged against. Until we accept that there are black sheep among our herd we will keep on turning a blind eye towards such events and shirk responsibility.Recommend

  • Time Is Up

    “We need to condemn it wholeheartedly and without any ifs and buts.” Let us see how many approvals we get on this. Pakistani Embassy already has issued a statement of condolence.
    What we need is get the ball rolling on introspection on how to live happily in 21st with others. Hard questions need to be asked such as –
    1. Are we fit as a community to practice Islam the way we want, in a secular society, without making others feel defensive?
    2. Are we open to adjust the way we look at apostates, non-muslims and gays?
    3. Are we ready to accept that allegiance to nation as superior than ummah/faith, if a conflict arises and we have to choose one?

    If the answer to above questions makes one think too much in favour of “no”, better to relocate to one of the OIC nations, no point being unhappy and at the same time trigger happy against non-believers.Recommend

  • jay

    Pakistan is also silent about what they did to Bengalis ( zero regret ), silent about China way of treating Muslims ( China is ur best buddy right ? ) silent about foolish objective resolution ! !Recommend

  • Salim Alvi

    Pakistanis are silent because america is far off place. Islam is religion of peace. Pakistan and Islam is the biggest victim of terrorism. Terrorism has no religion and Muslims are falsely accused as terrorists. Terrorism is sazish of Hunud, Nasra & Yehud. Rasool & Kaide Azam both were against terrorism and were non violent peaceful leaders.Recommend

  • Yogesh Khandke

    Pakistan was bred from hatred – it is only a matter of time before it disintegrates totally – hatred is a glue that only holds temporarilyRecommend

  • AMI

    India is the world s most barbaric intolerant uncivilized country in the world.Yogesh s comment confirms it.Hindus always comment in a negative hateful way about Pakistan.No wonder the radicalization and violence in India has led to one of its own leader from Congress stating “Cows are more safe in India than human beings”.Explains everythingRecommend

  • RHR

    Did you read the article till the end or stopped after reading the first paragraph. Important to read the entire article before coming up with sweeping judgments.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Their women r getting radicalized now..This is the most alarming news for pakistan..Women r root of a society.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    “India is the world s most barbaric intolerant uncivilized country in the world”yeah and Tashfeen Malik was a Hindu trained in RSS shakha..lolRecommend

  • Parvez

    I don’t think they are silent but the arguments they put up in their defense are either inept or easily negated by the facts that stare back at them.Recommend

  • Rajiv

    Pakistanis are silent about Bengal Genocide so why they would speak against it.Recommend

  • Rex Minor

    We also overlooked the fact that France was a western country attacked
    by Muslim extremists and hence it was natural that this fact would be
    reflected in the media coverage.

    This author tends to express his personal opinion as that of others by the use of ‘WE’ whatever it means. The Parisians were subjected to a carnage by the criminals who were born and raised in Paris subbarbs. It is futile and blesphamic to relate them to a religion or the counry where their forefathers originated from?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • LS

    This isn’t new.. there have been women suicide bombers in Islamic world for quite sometime now…


  • LS

    Do you even hear yourself? There are 100’s of terrorist organization, Pakistan most of them are state sponsored, Pakis commit terrorist activities across the world but India is intolerant, Hindu is intolerant despite more than 80 Million of them butchered by Islam in Indian subcontinent. This number is more than 2 world wars and all the wars combined in recent times. Yet Muslim is a victim.. 10% of Muslims ask for a separate Muslim nation but Hindu is intolerant.. They are enslaved, killed, their temples destroyed in thousands and mosques built on top, yet Hindu is intolerant…. pathetic.. Stop this victim attitude… Recommend


    Condemnations won’t do any more. Serious and very urgent thinking is required by all. I have a few words to say. A well written article that presents muslim point of view well. But tell me Sir, do you realise that out of about 57 Muslim countries, many in the neighbourhood of Syria, none came forward to accept refugees from Syria; WHY? Look at the recent incidents like muslims getting up and banging doors of a cockpit during flight and shouting I want to go to Allah. Someone slashing with knife and attacking passengers on Railway platform shouting ‘this is for Syria.’ Happily Married couple spraying innocents with bullets. Please think and Imagine the mental condition of these sincere, educated, well meaning young people with dreams in their eyes. Normal young religious and honest people, full of life and energy eager to make a happy family and life. But transformed into deeply stressed, confused, full of hate and violent killing machines in the name of religion. For God sake stop Jihad factories and training camps and sympathies for these death machines and there crafters. I strongly feel that it is time that all Muslims should unite to stop flow of Saudi money in their countries and specially monitor activities in madarsa and mosques to stop spread of a very dangerous and twisted version of Islam that is poisoning the young honest people. Act now please, otherwise it may be too late.Recommend

  • Sane

    Pakistan is silent, because it has nothing to do with these persons. Since last 25 years they were living somewhere else. On the other side anyone has listened the eye witness account of the incident.Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    India is intolerant and all that and what we do is none of your business.The difference is we keep our stuff within our borders unlike your kind from land of pure. Get the difference?Recommend

  • Gul,h

    This is Pakistan woman born in Pakistan and educated in Pakistan !! Do not distort facts dude!! Again denial mode…. whom are you fooling??Recommend

  • siesmann

    You can cry and say anything,but the fact remains that whenever a terrorist attack happens anywhere,their is a Pakistani connection.The reason-Pakistani MullahRecommend

  • siesmann

    Chickens do come back to roost at home.You export terrorism,it comes back to you magnified hundred times.Recommend

  • siesmann

    A religiously inspired crazy is entirely different from a crazy crazy.Recommend

  • siesmann

    Problem is Pakistani MullahRecommend

  • siesmann

    Then how is it that almost every terrorist attack ends up having Pakistani connection.Recommend

  • Ahsan

    We are not silent get your facts right! Pakistanis DO condemn any sort of terrorism maybe a minority does exist which doesn’t but every sane rational Muslim does including me!Recommend

  • Me

    Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE etc do not have any conflict…Recommend

  • Me

    If that was the case nobody in Pakiatan would be alive !!Recommend

  • Xyz

    I would argue about your statement on Islam not being monolithic- Muslims do want a monolithic religion- else why all the debate on who is a better or worse Muslim, why the conflict between Shias and Sunnis, why the intolerance towards Ahmadis. If you are not a part of a monolithic religion then should you not be accepting and embracing of those whose belief is not exactly the same as yours.Recommend

  • Amar Khandve

    3 points to muslimsRecommend

  • AMI

    You r completely right to the extent that India is the threat and an enemy of Pakistan.At least the comments here of Hindu colleagues confirm it.Recommend

  • LS

    The sarcasm is lost on you isn’t it?Recommend

  • satyameva jayate

    look how proud he is for identifying a “Hindu” , this is what they are taught in Madarssa course on “Spot a Hindu”Recommend

  • LS

    Resident of Looserville :-)Recommend

  • AMI

    But with due respect, if your inner stuff is barbaric and intolerant, obviously this is what you would be like and deliver to outside world too.With all respect for your culture, isnt it monstrous that you kill people in the name of animals when all the nations in the world be these Christians,Jews,Muslims,Chinese etc eat meat? Shouldn t you be tolerant to them?Recommend

  • DudeFromDC

    Again, with all due respect, I think you have a hard time breaking down a simple argument. As I said earlier, India is intolerant and we will kill whoever we like within our borders. Totally not your place to put your nose in. Now, have you ever heard an Indian (non muslims) killing anyone outside their country to push their beliefs? Or if you live in the civilized part of the world (non muslim countries), ask anyone who would they prefer: an Indian( even muslims) or a Pakistani. You will get your answer there. Let me know if you understand this or I can elaborate further.Recommend