A Muslim Reported Omar Mateen To The FBI Well Before Orlando Shooting
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
After the shooting in Orlando, Donald Trump called on Muslim Americans to do more to stop attacks on American soil.
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DONALD TRUMP: They know that he was bad. They knew the people in San Bernardino were bad. But you know what? They didn't turn him in.
MARTIN: Many Muslims see that as an unfair criticism of the Muslim community as a whole and cringe at the idea that they're somehow hiding information. Mohammad Malik is one of them. He wrote an op-ed this week in The Washington Post, titled, "I Reported Omar Mateen To The FBI. Trump Is Wrong That Muslims Don't Do Our Part." Mohammad Malik joins us from Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Thanks so much for being with us.
MOHAMMAD MALIK: You're welcome.
MARTIN: You say that you reported Omar Mateen to the FBI in the year 2014. Why? What had concerned you at the time?
MALIK: We had just had a situation where a young man from our community had gone to Syria and committed a suicide bombing which hurt innocent people, and I did not want anything like that to happen again.
MARTIN: And you had been in conversations with the FBI about people in your community, young men in particular, who could be radicalized in the same way. And you named Omar Mateen?
MALIK: Well, prior to that, the FBI was investigating the young man I spoke about that went to Syria. His name was Moner Abu-Salha. Afterwards, just talking to people in the community, including Omar Mateen, we were just wondering how this young man got radicalized to go do something like this in Syria. And the name Anwar al-Awlaki came up, and Omar Mateen had mentioned to me that he had seen his videos.
MARTIN: We should say Anwar al-Awlaki was the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. He was killed by an American drone strike in 2011. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: We say Anwar al-Awlaki was the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. He was not the leader, but instead a spokesman for the group.]
MARTIN: When Omar Mateen said to you that he'd been watching these videos of al-Awlaki, how did he characterize them?
MALIK: He mentioned that they were very powerful. And that was something that threw up another red flag for me when he said that, and I knew at that point that I definitely had to report this and prevent something bad from happening.
MARTIN: In the op-eds, you wrote that Donald Trump is wrong about Muslims. What do you think he doesn't understand?
MALIK: I think what he doesn't understand is that we do do our part when we come across something like this. When I started hearing all the rhetoric from Donald Trump and also from other people in the news, you know, particularly, there was a local article written by our local newspaper titled, "Leave Our Peaceful Muslim Neighbors Alone." The comments for the article were just atrocious. I mean, that bothers me when there's ignorant information going around.
MARTIN: We started out talking about that other young man from your community, from your mosque, who went to Syria. He and Omar Mateen both went to your mosque. Are members of your own religious community asking questions now, saying, is there something going on and what can we do as a community?
MALIK: I know I'm asking that. But we've got to look at it from the point - well, what did we do wrong? And we can't come to anything. And we don't know where this is coming from. A majority of the thing that's coming is these guys are going out on their own and self-radicalizing. I know it sounds difficult to believe that this is a coincidence, but it truly is a coincidence. These two did not know each other.
MARTIN: Has this made you go back over your own interactions with Omar Mateen in your mind to see if there were other signs that he was more violent?
MALIK: Of course, that definitely came into my mind, initially - you know, what could I have done differently or if anything? Of course, you don't want anything like this to happen. You don't want innocent people getting hurt. And on that point, I would definitely like to send my condolences to the victims and their families of this horrific event.
MARTIN: Mohammad Malik. He's the author of an op-ed that appeared in The Washington Post this week about turning Omar Mateen into the FBI. Thanks so much for speaking with us.
MALIK: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.