Despite media and FBI claims that the attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Texas was “not specifically related to the Jewish community,” the hostages taken by terrorist Malik Faisal Akram have confirmed that his motivation was in fact antisemitic.
The FBI’s claim, blindly repeated by the world’s media, had sparked fury in Jewish communities around the world. For example, the BBC led with the headline: “Texas synagogue hostage stand-off not related to Jewish community – FBI”
Speaking to CNN, Beth Israel community member Jeffrey Cohen recounted that 44-year-old Mr Akram, from Blackburn in Lancashire, UK, had imbibed antisemitic conspiracy theories to the extent that he believed Jews to be so powerful that if he wanted a criminal to be released from prison, all he had to do was to enter a synagogue and demand that local Jews exercise their political might to fulfil his request.
At one point Mr Cohen told how the terrorist, who was killed by the FBI, demanded to speak to the “Chief Rabbi”, however no such office exists in the United States, so they simply called a rabbi from another synagogue. Mr Akram was apparently utterly convinced that Jews and their rabbis wielded such immense power that they could overturn prison sentences by decree.
The account has been corroborated by others, forcing the FBI to backtrack and admit that far from being “not specifically related to the Jewish community,” the attack was in fact “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted”.
Mr Akram entered the synagogue during Sabbath services, making threats against the congregation and holding them hostage, demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is currently serving an 86-year prison sentence in Texas.
In comments that could be heard on a live stream of the synagogue service that was cut off during the incident, Mr Akram could be heard speaking in a northern English accent and claiming that he had a bomb and that he would not leave the synagogue alive.
In additional comments that suggest that the FBI did little of use during the attack, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told CBS Mornings that he and the two other hostages had escaped by hurling a chair at the attacker and running out of the building. Only once the hostages were free did the FBI enter the building and shoot Mr Akram dead. The account was corroborated in Mr Cohen’s CNN interview.
Previous reports had suggested that the FBI freed the hostages.
Two teenagers have now been arrested by the UK’s Counter Terrorism Policing North West.
The person who Mr Akram wanted freed in return for the safety of the hostages was being held in a Texan prison. Dr Siddiqui is convicted of two counts of attempted murder, armed assault, using and carrying a firearm, and three counts of assault on US officers and employees. Upon her conviction, raising her middle finger in court she shouted: “This is a verdict coming from Israel, not America. That’s where the anger belongs.” Dr Siddiqui had refused to work with a legal team provided to her by the Pakistani embassy on account of them being Jewish, and she had also demanded that jurors be subject to some sort of genetic testing to assess whether they were Jewish.
In a letter to former US President Obama, Dr Siddiqui wrote: “Study the history of the Jews. They have always back-stabbed everyone who has taken pity on them and made the ‘fatal’ error of giving them shelter…and it is this cruel, ungrateful back-stabbing of the Jews that has caused them to be mercilessly expelled from wherever they gain strength. This why ‘holocausts’ keep happening to them repeatedly! If they would only learn to be grateful and change their behaviour!”
A statement purportedly from Mr Akram’s brother claimed that Mr Akram had in fact released all of the hostages voluntarily before the authorities conducted their raid and killed him.
The statement added: “We would also like to add that any attack on any human being be it a Jew, Christian or Muslim etc is wrong and should always be condemned. It is absolutely inexcusable for a Muslim to attack a Jew or for any Jew to attack a Muslim, Christian, Hindu vice versa etc.”
The statement was published on a Facebook the “Blackburn Muslim Community” Facebook page which had to apologise for a post about Mr Akram’s death praying for “the Almighty” to “bless him with the highest ranks of Paradise”. The apology absurdly claimed that they had not been aware of the circumstances of Mr Akram’s death when posting the message, before the entire Facebook page was taken offline. Campaign Against Antisemitism is investigating who operates the “Blackburn Muslim Community” Facebook page and has alerted the authorities.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “We join Jewish communities around the world in relief that Malik Faisal Akram’s attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Texas ended without physical injury to worshippers at the synagogue.
“The FBI’s claim during the attack that it ‘was not specifically related to the Jewish community’ has now been shown to be the opposite of reality. The FBI’s grasp of the nature of the attack and its role, if any, in securing the safety of the hostages will now be under considerable scrutiny. It is appalling how the FBI’s patently absurd analysis was blindly parroted by the world’s media.
“That the perpetrator came from the United Kingdom raises very serious questions for British authorities, including whether Mr Akram was encouraged or supported by local elements who may pose a continuing threat to the Jewish community or the wider public. This would appear to be supported by the fact that two teenagers have already been arrested by Counter Terrorism Policing North West. That a ‘Blackburn Muslim Community’ Facebook page purporting to represent the local Muslim community published a now-deleted post calling for ‘the Almighty’ to ‘bless him with the highest ranks of Paradise’ demands an urgent investigation. We are looking into who operates the page and have alerted local law enforcement.”