The real lesson of the Texas synagogue attack
Few understand the crucial role of antisemitism in Islamist extremism
The observation by an FBI officer that the gunman who took four Jews hostage in a Texas synagogue on Saturday was “singularly focused on one issue, and it was not specifically related to the Jewish community” has produced an understandable torrent of ridicule and derision.
Obviously, the notion that taking hostage a rabbi and three Jewish worshippers in a synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath was some kind of random event unconnected with the gunman’s attitude to Jews was beyond absurd.
The reason the FBI agent said this, however, reveals something broader about the blindness of the west towards Muslim antisemitism and the crucial role this plays in Islamic extremism. Indeed, even some of those who found the agent’s comment grotesque don’t get this point either.
Let’s unravel all this. The gunman, a British Islamist called Malik Faisal Akram, was reportedly motivated by his wish to free Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist linked to al Qaeda. In 2010, she was jailed for 86 years for attempted murder and is being held in Fort Worth, Texas.
After Siddiqui had been arrested in Afghanistan on suspicion of plotting attacks against the US, she grabbed an M4 rifle and opened fire on the American soldiers. When she had been arrested, she was carrying “documents that discussed the construction of weapons”, made reference to a “mass casualty attack” and listed a number of New York City landmarks.
Siddiqui is also a virulent antisemite. According to Deborah Scroggins’ 2012 book Wanted Women, she urged former president Obama in a letter:
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 … This why ‘“holocausts” keep happening to them repeatedly!
At her trial, Siddiqui demanded that prospective jurors were DNA-tested to check they weren’t Jews. After her conviction, she said:
This is a verdict coming from Israel and not from America. That’s where the anger belongs.
Akram told the hostages that he chose Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas because it was the closest synagogue to the prison where Siddiqui is being held. As for the reason he chose to target a synagogue at all, that’s not hard to work out — once you know where to look.
According to a tweet by NBC News reporter Tom Winter:
The hostage-taker at the synagogue in Texas had the rabbi call a different rabbi in New York City. The purpose of the call was to again demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui.
That’s because Akram believed that the Jews control American politics. It would therefore follow, in his mind, that rabbis would form a nexus of power over governments and can tell them what to do. So, force a rabbi to call a more influential rabbi, and hey presto — Siddiqui would be released.
He would believe that because the boilerplate antisemitic delusion that the Jews control the west is a commonplace throughout the Muslim world. Indeed, every antisemitic trope under the sun — demonising the apparently all-powerful Jews as an evil conspiracy to harm the rest of the world in their own interests — is generally believed as fact in Muslim societies. To them, the west dances on the strings of its Jewish puppet-masters.
The Muslim world is therefore in the grip of an obsessional and delusional paranoia about the Jews. It is essential to understand this, and the consequences that follow. Very few people do.
Antisemitism is absolutely central to Islamic radicalisation and extremism. Aafia Siddiqui was far from alone when she came out with her deranged Jewish conspiracy theories. Numerous Islamist terrorists have made it crystal clear that, in attacking the west, their most fundamental target is the Jews. At war against modernity, they believe that behind modernity stand the Jews — who they think are behind everything in the world that the Islamists have decided is bad.
Inciting hatred against the Jews therefore acts as a recruitment tool for the jihad against the west. Painting the Jews literally as devils incites a frenzy of murderous paranoia. Which is why such a disproportionate number of Islamist attacks single out Jewish targets.
This rampant antisemitism is not confined to Islamist extremists. While there are Muslims who are free of this scourge — and indeed, some of these people courageously fight it within their own communities — a disproportionate number have bigoted attitudes towards Jews, and a disproportionate number are involved as a result in attacks on diaspora Jewish communities.
In 2013, the British Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan wrote in the New Statesman:
I can’t keep count of the number of Muslims I have come across – from close friends and relatives to perfect strangers – for whom weird and wacky antisemitic conspiracy theories are the default explanation for a range of national and international events…The truth is that the virus of antisemitism has infected members of the British Muslim community… It pains me to have to admit this but antisemitism isn’t just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it’s routine and commonplace. Any Muslims reading this article — if they are honest with themselves — will know instantly what I am referring to. It’s our dirty little secret.”
After the Colleyville synagogue attack, some Muslims courageously spoke out. A Duke University professor called on his fellow Muslims to confront the “increasing antisemitism problem” within their community. The Mail reports:
Abdullah T. Antepli, a professor of the Practice of Interfaith Relations at the Duke Divinity School, took to Twitter Sunday saying members of his faith have a “moral call for action for the soul of Islam and Muslim” to address the hatred towards Jews.
On CapX Rahib Ehsan, a member of the UK interfaith organisation Muslims Against Antisemitism, similarly writes that although
a comfortable majority of British Muslims do not support anti-Jewish views and antisemitic tropes,
the evidence shows that there are relatively high levels of antisemitism among British Muslims compared with the general population. As Ehsan notes:
A 2017 study by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) found that when set against the general population, British Muslim respondents were more likely to believe that Jews have too much power in Britain (eight per cent versus 27 per cent), exploit the Holocaust for their own purposes (ten per cent and 25 per cent), and possess feelings of “group superiority” over non-Jews (13 per cent and 28 per cent).
And Britain itself certainly has a problem with Islamic extremism — one that it is struggling to control. The Texas attack is trailing an all-too familiar string of bad calls by the British cousins. It turns out that as recently as 2020 Akram, who had a history of mental health issues, had been under investigation by British intelligence as a possible Islamist terrorist threat. The Guardian reports:
British intelligence closed the investigation, however, after officers had concluded Malik Faisal Akram from Blackburn posed no threat, and as a result he was able to travel freely to the US and purchase a gun. It is understood the investigation was “mid-level” and took place in the second half of 2020 – but once it had ended Akram was left as a closed subject of interest on MI5’s records, and no information of concern appears to have been passed to the US authorities before the synagogue attack.
The Mail reports:
Akram became known to British counter-terrorism police after becoming 'completely obsessed' with Islam and displayed extreme and disruptive behaviour at Friday prayers during his most recent spell in prison.
He was also a regular at anti-Israel demonstrations and marches for the release of Muslim prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, having first been put behind bars in 1996 as a juvenile delinquent and going in and out of prison for 16 years until he found religion.
In 2001 he was banned from his local court in England, where he was a regular in the dock, for turning up to abuse staff and ranting about 9/11. He was a regular visitor to Pakistan and reportedly a member of the Tablighi Jamaat group, set up to “purify” Islam and banned from Saudi after the kingdom described the group as a “gateway to terrorism”.
The Campaign Against Antisemitism has reported that, in a now-deleted post, the “Blackburn Muslim Community” Facebook page reportedly prayed for “the Almighty” to “bless him [Akram] with the highest ranks of Paradise”. The CAA comments:
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.
So with all this going on, you might imagine that the leadership of Britain’s Jewish community would be expressing huge alarm about the threat posed by Muslim antisemitism and the failure of the British authorities to act against it.
In fact, Britain’s Jewish leaders don’t express huge alarm about Muslim antisemitism. Indeed, they never mention it at all. And if anyone in the community does bring it up, the Jewish leadership damns that person as an “Islamophobe”.
This has been going on for years, generally below the radar. But now it has exploded into the open, with the Board of Deputies of British Jews currently engaged in an attempt to cancel one Jewish community leader — and succeeding in cancelling a second one — for daring to draw attention to Muslim antisemitism.
More than 46 elected Board representatives have signed a letter demanding that trustees of the Jewish National Fund UK charity force its chairman, Samuel Hayek, to resign over “Islamophobic” comments he made when discussing the future of Jews in England.
These deputies, representing Jewish organisations of the left including Masorti, Reform Judaism, Liberal Judaism, Habonim Dror, the Union of Jewish Students and Yachad, said:
These bigoted remarks have no place in our community. If we have come to expect zero tolerance of antisemitism, we must show zero tolerance of racism and Islamophobia.
They have threatened that, unless Hayek resigns and the JNF condemns his comments, their synagogues and organisations will withdraw cooperation with JNF UK and the programmes that it funds and supports.
So what did Hayek say that was so utterly beyond the pale? In interviews with the Jerusalem Post and Jewish News, he observed that Jews would have “no future” in the UK owing to the rise in Muslim immigration. He told the Jerusalem Post:
I am not against any minority or against the Muslims in the UK or Europe, but against anyone who spreads hatred that harms Jews. That is how I see the near future evolving…
If you look at France, with numbers, nobody would have believed 20 years ago the state of the Jewish community as it is today…Our problem in the west is that we do not understand Islam. In Islam there is not a term for “peace”…
What is happening in France today could happen in Britain in a few years…look how quickly it deteriorated…. The process is that maybe in 10 years, maybe less, who knows, Jews will not be able to live in the UK. I don’t think anybody can stop it.
Hayek’s remarks might justifiably be criticised as too sweeping, failing to acknowledge the British Muslims who courageously try to combat the antisemitism in their community.
Nevertheless, his observations are broadly true. There is a significant and dangerous problem of Jew-hatred among Muslims . A number of them have now said so. Are they also to be deemed “Islamophobic” and “bigoted”?
But the attack on Hayek wasn’t all. Shortly after that row erupted, Gary Mond, JNF’s UK treasurer, was forced to to resign as senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies and as a member of the Board, saying:
Key people at the Board have made it clear that they no longer wish to work with me.
This was because the Jewish News had unearthed old Facebook comments by Mond that “all civilisation” was “at war with Islam”. It also found that Mond had “liked” on Facebook two posts by Pamela Geller, a Jewish-American anti-Islam activist. The JC reports:
The posts liked by Mr. Mond referenced the 2017 election victory of Emmanuel Macron in France, and said that France had picked “submission over freedom.” Other comments unearthed by the Jewish News from Mr. Mond include him saying that the west was at war with Islam, branding Muslims “evil b*****ds” and saying that “Just as Islam has lost before in history, it will lose again”. (NB update: Mond was actually reported out of context. As noted by Jonathan Hoffman here, he used the term “evil b*****ds” to refer specifically to the Islamist terrorists who perpetrated the horrific terror attacks on the Bataclan in Paris in November 2015).
The Board said about Mond:
The Board of Deputies believes that there is no place in any Jewish communal organisation for anti-Muslim hatred.
But the Board is silent about Muslim anti-Jewish hatred.
And these other community organisations demanding “zero tolerance of racism and Islamophobia” display zero tolerance of those who call out Muslim antisemitism. Struck dumb about Muslim anti-Jewish hatred, they claim instead in Orwellian fashion that those who identify this bigotry as a serious cause for concern are guilty of anti-Muslim hatred.
Even after the attack on the Colleyville synagogue by a British Islamist, who came from an area of England where the relatively high number of extremists in the Muslim community means that there is without doubt a very serious problem of antisemitism there (as well as in other similar areas), the number of statements from Britain’s Jewish leadership about the danger to Jews posed by Muslim Jew-hatred has been… zero.
These British Jews — like many of their ideological counterparts in the US — have become the jihadis’ useful idiots. As Muslim antisemitism continues to fuel the jihad against the west, and as more and more Jews and non-Jews tragically become its victims, these Jewish useful idiots will never be forgiven.
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