Gunman Holds Four Hostage At Texas Synagogue, Because That's What 2022 Is Like So Far

Gunman Holds Four Hostage At Texas Synagogue, Because That's What 2022 Is Like So Far

For several hours Saturday, a British man held four people hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and demanded the release of Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui.

Malik Faisal Akram, carrying a gun, interrupted Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s Shabbat services and, according to authorities, claimed he had planted bombs in the synagogue. He eventually released one person during the standoff with authorities. The others were freed at around 9 p.m. after an FBI SWAT team made the “deliberate decision” to breach the building. Akram was killed. Fortunately, the hostages were physically unharmed. FBI Special Agent in Charge Matt DeSarno said a team will investigate the “shooting incident.”

This was undoubtedly a horrifying experience for the hostages, who likely had no idea what Akram wanted or how they could possibly help him. He demanded to speak with Siddiqui, who’s been held at FMC Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, after she was convicted in 2010 for trying to kill U.S. Army officers in Afghanistan.

The evidence seems clear that Siddiqui is an anti-Semite, but she claimed in her trial she didn't commit the crime for which she was ultimately convicted. It does seem as if she was radicalized after 9/11, which draws uncomfortable parallels to the Big Lie believers who only became more delusional after January 6.

You’d probably have to believe in some irrational, paranoid Jewish conspiracy to assume random Jewish congregants at a synagogue could help secure Siddiqui’s freedom, but Akram doesn’t seem particularly rational. People watched in horror as Akram ranted on the Facebook Live broadcast of services. None of what he said made much sense. According to witnesses, he repeatedly referred to Siddiqui as his sister, but they are not actually related. John Floyd at the Council on American-Islamic Relations clarified that Siddiqui’s actual brother wasn’t involved.

Sky News reports:

Akram's family say they are "devastated" by his death, adding that they "do not condone any of his actions and would like to sincerely apologize wholeheartedly to all the victims involved in the unfortunate incident".

In a statement, Akram's brother Gulbar said family members spent hours "liasing with Faisal" during the siege, and that although he was "suffering from mental health issues we were confident that he would not harm the hostages".

"There was nothing we could have said to him or done that would have convinced him to surrender," Gulbar said.

So, how did this asshole get a gun? That’s the question we always ask after these incidents, even though the answer is tragically predictable. He’d been in the country just a couple weeks and had spent one night in a homeless shelter. Describing Saturday’s events as an “act of terror,” President Joe Biden told reporters Sunday that Akram bought the gun on the street. (Texas’s gun laws are for shit.) There’s no evidence yet that Akram is connected to any terrorist organization, but police in Manchester, UK, have arrested two people reported to be his teenage sons as part of an ongoing counterterrorism investigation.

Regardless of how the investigation ends, the hostage standoff terrorized countless Jewish people Saturday, who have reason to fear an increase in anti-Semitic attacks. In 2018, 11 Jewish Americans were slaughtered at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. A religious sanctuary is a place where people should feel safe, not targeted because of their faith.

It’s tragic that it’s come to this, but in a statement Sunday, Cytron-Walker — known to his congregants as Rabbi Charlie — credited active-shooter drills and security courses he and members of his congregation had taken with saving their lives.

"In the last hour of our hostage crisis, the gunman became increasingly belligerent and threatening," Cytron-Walker said. "Without the instruction we received, we would not have been prepared to act and flee when the situation presented itself.”

Rabbi Charlie and his congregants deserve to live in a better world, but for now, we’re glad that they were prepared to survive in this one.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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