Malik was born in Pakistan, lived in Saudi Arabia and moved to the U.S. after meeting her husband, Chicago-born Syed Rizwan Farook, online. Most of the sources the Times interviewed couldn’t say what Malik looked like, because she normally wore a head scarf to cover her face. A family member from her hometown said that she became more religious after college, attending religious groups in the area. They began to worry when she began speaking in Arabic, which her family members couldn’t understand (they speak Urdu and a dialect of Punjabi known as Saraiki):
“She used to talk to somebody in Arabic at night on the Internet. None of our family members in Pakistan know Arabic, so we do not know what she used to discuss.”
Said another family member:
“She was so modern. I do not know what had happened to her. She brought a bad name to our family.”
Another piece published in The Washington Post on Sunday gives a similar timeline of Malik’s turn toward religious conservatism. College friends say that around 2009, Malik began paying more attention to Islamic studies than to her studies in pharmacology.
During her final year at the university, Malik became so rigid in her conservative Islamic religious beliefs that she refused a staple of college life: getting photographed. When Malik graduated from pharmacy school, she tried to remove all of her pictures from university databases. She collected all of her university identification and library cards and destroyed them.
Malik and Farook’s actions suggest that the attack was inspired by other terrorist attacks in the U.S., including the attack on the Boston Marathon finish line in 2013. On Wednesday, just before storming into a holiday party with her husband and an assault rifle, Malik posted on her Facebook page, swearing allegiance to the Islamic State.