The founder of Al-Huda Institute whose former student shot dead 14 people in California last week said the religious school organistaion has no links to extremists and cannot be held responsible for “personal acts” of any student.
Farhat Hashmi said in a statement on her website that Tashfeen Malik attended Al-Huda International Seminary’s branch in Multan briefly between 2013 and 2014 and left without completing the diploma course.
“We cannot be held responsible for personal acts of any of our students,” she said.
“Al-Huda International Welfare Foundation is a non-political, non-secteranian and non-profit organisation which does not have any links to any extremist regime,” the statement said.
Further, the founder of one of Pakistan’s most high-profile religious seminaries for women said, “It seems that she was unable to understand the beautiful message of the Quran.”
“Any Muslim who is aware of the teachings of his/her religion and who adheres to the directives of the Holy Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), will never involve himself/herself in such acts, because they will invoke the anger of Allah and lead to harm and corruption on earth,” the statement added.
Tashfeen Malik, 29, studied at the Al-Huda Institute in Multan, which targets middle-class women seeking to come closer to Islam and also has offices in the US, the UAE, India and the UK, the teacher at the seminary who gave her name only as Muqadas said.
The institute has no known extremist links, though it has come under fire in the past from critics who say its ideology echoes that of the Taliban.
Malik and her husband Syed Farook, 28, went on a killing spree at a social services centre in San Bernardino, an act praised by the Islamic State group who hailed the couple as “soldiers” of its self-proclaimed caliphate.
Investigators suspect that Malik, who went to the United States on a fiancee’s visa and spent extended periods of time in both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, may have radicalised her husband.
The probe is trying to establish if she had contact with Islamic radicals in either country.
“It was a two-year course, but she did not finish it,” the teacher Muqadas said.
“She was a good girl. I don’t know why she left and what happened to her.”
The teacher did not say when Malik studied at the seminary, but fellow classmates at the Bahauddin Zakariya University said she had attended the madrassa after classes at the university, which she attended from 2007-2013.
An administration official at the academy in Multan said he could neither confirm nor deny that Malik had studied there, and said he would discuss the issue with management.
“But we have nothing to do with it (the shooting) and are not responsible for our students’ personal acts,” he added.
One of Malik’s former classmates at the Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan, where she studied pharmacology, told AFP she had attended the madrassa after classes, saying she “drastically changed” during her time there.
“Gradually she became more serious and strict,” said the student, requesting anonymity.
A second university student who also requested anonymity confirmed the account.
Pakistan has pledged to crack down on religious seminaries suspected of being breeding grounds for intolerance or even fostering extremism, with the country’s information minister Pervaiz Rashid terming them “universities of illiteracy and ignorance”.
However the government’s efforts to rein in madrassas have prompted anger from many clerics who accuse the authorities of maligning religious leaders in a bid to build an “anti-Islamic narrative”.