The Texas Hostage Crisis

The Texas Hostage Crisis

Evan Bruno, Staff Writer

Last week, horror struck a Jewish community in Coleyville, Texas, as a terrorist named Malik Faisal Akram took four members of the community hostage during a Bat Mitzvah Service on Saturday, January 15, 2022. The overall motive for this act of violence was to free a terrorist imprisoned for murder named Aafia Sidiqui, also known as “Lady Al-Qaeda.” She is known for attempting to murder a U.S. Army Captain while in Afghan custody, and she is currently being held prisoner in Fort Worth, Texas.

At around 10:00 in the morning, Akram entered the synagogue posing as a homeless man, and not being immediately suspicious of anything, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker welcomed him inside. During a prayer, Rabbi Cytron-Walker turned his back to the congregation and towards the Torah, the Jewish sacred book, and cited a prayer when he heard a click. This click turned out to be the pistol Akram had on him. Akram began shouting at the congregation and in total took four people hostage, including the Rabbi and the Vice President of the Temple’s board, Jeffrey Cohen. However, it would be Cohen who would notify the police, dialing 9-1-1 on his phone while Akram was not looking. 

Nationally, this event became known at around 11:30, as many eyes looked onto this act of terror. The FBI immediately sent in negotiators to deal with this situation, but until they arrived, local police tried to limit the violence in this situation. Akram ranted about many things during the early stages of negotiations, specifically referencing Israel, the United States, and Jews most often. He used many antisemtic slurs regarding not only his hostages but all Jews across the world, as well as shouting Anti-Israel statements while promoting jihad against the west. Desperate to free Sadiqi, Akram demanded to speak to a Senior Rabbi named Angela Buchdahl, who he hoped could use their political power to help free Sadiqi. This, however, did not work, and several hours later, the FBI took over negotiations. Talks were happening and by 5:00, three hours after the FBI took over, the first hostage was released, seemingly unharmed. “[Akram was] increasingly belligerent and threatening [as the situation went on],” Rabbi Cytron-Walker said. Using this to their advantage, the three remaining hostages positioned themselves near an exit, and escaped after the Rabbi threw a chair at Akram while drinking some juice. They escaped unharmed and no shots were fired. Minutes later, the FBI bursted into the synagogue, surrounding and killing Akram after disorienting him with a stun grenade.

Investigation discovered that Akram seemingly worked alone in this act, not being a part of a larger cause, but his two sons were arrested in Manchester for their role in this crime. The FBI released a statement the day following the crisis, saying that the act was “specifically focused on issues not connected to the Jewish community.” This claim received a large amount of criticism, as the women Akram had been trying to free was known for her antisemitic beliefs. On top of that, Akram made many antisemitic claims during the hostage situtation, including citing the reasons he chose the synagogue because America “only cares about Jewish lives” and the “fact” that “Jews control the world, […] the media, and […] the banks.” This criticism caused the FBI to retract the statement they made originally into a statement where they recognized it was a matter of terrorism targeted at the Jewish community. 

This horrendous act frightened Jewish communities across the nation, forcing many synagogues and other institutions to acquire additional security measures. Unfortunately, this incident was one of many recently targeting the Jewish community. “A bullseye is being drawn on the backs of Jews in the United States,” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach said. According to the Anti-Defamation League, hate crimes against Jews went up by 12% in the past year, and have continued to rise in January of 2022. This trend is obviously concerning, and what is similarly concerning is the conspiracy theories surrounding the hostage situation. Supporters of the far-right extremist group QAnon claimed this was an inside job, and the hostages were paid crisis actors. These claims fuel the antisemtic fire that is most certainly not just beginning to burn, but rather raging across our nation. Of course, resilience has been shown, as Rabbi Cytron-Walker has since began to lead services to his congregation once more, a somewhat happy ending to a horrific story.