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Father of San Bernardino Terrorist Blames Ex-Wife for Son’s Radicalization

The father of the Islamist terrorist Syed Farook, who massacred 14 of his coworkers in San Bernardino on December 2, is distancing himself from his son’s actions and ideology and blaming his ex-wife for his son’s radicalization.

In an interview with the Italian daily La Stampa, the father—who is also named Syed Farook—identified himself as a “liberal,” meaning that he is open to Western ideas and lifestyle, and painted his son and estranged wife as “conservatives,” or rigid adherents of Islam:

As a teenager he didn’t go to parties with his classmates, because he said that a good Muslim can only see his wife dance. I come from the city, I’m a liberal, I would joke about everything the way Pakistanis do and I would tell them to loosen up, but there was nothing to do.

Farook clarified that his son’s real name is Rizwan, but that they mixed up the names at the hospital. Farook said he immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in 1973 and got a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.

La Stampa’s U.S. correspondent Paolo Mastrolilli asked Farook why he and his wife Rafia split up, citing reports that his wife divorced him because he would get drunk and beat her, and so she went to live with her son Rizwan, while Farook lived with their other son Raheel.

Farook denied the report vehemently. “They’re all lies,” he said, accusing his son of breaking them up; in fact, the couple only broke up last May, and the father came to live with his son Raheel in September.

“Rizwan was a mama’s boy, and she is very religious like him. They joined forces against me. Once we had an argument about the historical figure of Jesus, my son yelled that I was an infidel and decided that my marriage with my wife had to end.”

Farook said that he does not understand why his son did what he did. “He had everything: a job that paid $70,000 a year plus more than $20,000 in overtime, a house, a 6-month-old daughter, and he even got a master’s degree to earn more,”  he said.

Asked whether he was aware that his son was stockpiling weapons, Farook said that he once saw that his son had a gun, and stated that he got angry and yelled at him. “In 45 years living in the United States,” he shouted, “I never had a weapon.” According to Farook, his son just shrugged and said, “The worse for you.”

Farook admitted that he knew his son “shared the ideology of Al Baghdadi to create an Islamic state,” and that he “was fixated on Israel.”

Farook said that he told his son to be patient because “in two years Israel will no longer exist.”

“You can’t defeat Israel with weapons, but with politics,” he told his son, adding that it did no good because his son “was fixated.” At the same time, Farook said his son was “an angel” and that he was “good, obedient and studious.”

Though Farook asserted that he does not know whether his son had contact with terrorist groups abroad, he suggested that it was probable: “I do not know. But these days, who knows, with the internet and all that technology?”

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.

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