A Canadian Islamic school that was linked to the California shooter as well as four students who travelled to Syria to join the Islamic State closed for the day on Tuesday, citing “safety concerns.”
Staff at the Al-Huda Institute said the media’s focus on the school had put the staff and students at risk. Media focus on the school began this week when it emerged that Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino terrorists, had attended a branch of the school in Pakistan.
Last year, the school was in the headlines as four of its students, aged 15-18, had attempted to travel to Syria to join jihadi organizations. Travelling from Canada through Cairo to Istanbul, three of the girls were stopped by the Turks after the girls’ parents alerted Canadian authorities. The oldest girl made it to Syria and has been living there since 2014.
The Al-Huda Institute in Mississauga, Ontario is one of a chain of 200 Al-Huda schools in the U.S., Canada and Pakistan. Founded in 1994 by an ultra-conservative female Islamic scholar, Farhat Hashmi, its ideology is said to have spread like a social movement in North America and around the world.
The self-declared “Islamic feminist,” Hashmi wears a burka, advocates total obedience of a woman to her husband and promotes Saudi Wahhabist ideology. When she opened a new center in London – in a former police station — she was accused of teaching a "medieval view of human rights and women's place in society" as well as advocating jihad.
Her teachings were so controversial and offensive she was asked to leave Canada in 2006. Canadian reports say she has not been in the country for the last three years.
"Women gravitate towards her because they are either disillusioned with their life in the West, or they want their daughters to be protected from what they perceive to be the moral laxity of the West," Muslim human rights activist Farzana Hassan said, speaking to the International Business Times. "Her network is large and growing because her graduates then go out and spread the word to other recruits.”
As for Malik, after she began studying at an Al-Huda Institute in Pakistan (before she married fellow San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook), a close friend said she noticed a big change in her former schoolmate. “We were like, ‘What happened to Malik?’” said Abida Rani. “She became so religious, so serious, and so focused on Islamic teachings, and she lost her interest in her studies.”