Another piece of evidence has emerged to indicate that the Muslim man who recently stormed and held a Texas-based synagogue hostage was not just acting in accordance with jihadist ideology, but following an ISIS directive.
On Jan. 15, 2022, Malik Faisal Akram, a 44-year-old British Pakistani armed with a gun, took four people hostage at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, during Sabbath service. Akram repeatedly demanded the release of his "sister" (in Islam), Aafia Siddiqui, aka "Lady al-Qaeda," another Pakistani national imprisoned for attempted murder and other terrorist-related activities. In the end, only Akram died in the standoff with police; all four hostages survived.
Instantly, however, and as almost always happens, the initial explanation—because we must never "jump to conclusions," must never call it a duck, even if it looks, swims, and quacks like a duck—revolved around anything but the obvious. Thus, whether the FBI initially declared that "we're continuing to work to find motive," or whether Akram was presented as suffering from "mental health issues," few in officialdom wanted to confirm that this was a jihadist operation directed against Jews, who are seen by not a few Muslims as one of Islam's archenemies.
Missed, however, is the fact that, a few weeks before Akram stormed the synagogue, the Islamic State (ISIS) issued a directive calling on Muslims to do exactly what Akram did—and for the very same reason he cited.
On Dec. 20, 2021, the ISIS-operated Rocket.Chat communication platform did what it and other jihadist forums always do in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas: It sought to rile and incite Muslims to launch "lone wolf" attacks during the festive season, including by posting a drawing of a veiled jihadist brandishing a bloody knife in one hand while holding the severed head of Santa Claus in the other, with the following message:
With the advent of the so-called polytheistic celebrations that the unbelievers are experiencing these days, we send a message to our monotheist brothers in Europe, America, Australia, Canada, Russia, and other countries of unbelief and apostasy ... Attack the citizens of crusader coalition countries with your knives, run them over in the streets, detonate bombs on them, and spray them with bullets.
We have, of course, over the years seen numerous such lone-wolf attacks, especially those consisting of Muslims randomly driving vehicles into people (Nice, France, 2016, with 86 people killed being only the most notorious) or going on stabbing sprees (London Bridge, with two killed, being only one of the most notorious).
But the aforementioned Rocket.Chat communiques that appeared in December 2021 had another message:
Imagine with me, brothers, if Muslim refugees in Crusader Europe took hostages while the pigs [Christians] celebrate their polytheistic holidays and forced the European crusaders to order their angry dogs to release our sisters from the Al-Hawl and Ain Issa camps or else they would cut off the pigs' heads.
This suggested scenario almost perfectly conforms to both the stated motive and actions of Malik Faisal Akram, who, before holding a synagogue in Texas hostage, was investigated in Britain for his known "radical" links—links that almost certainly suggest he visited, and was influenced by, jihadist sites such as Rocket.Chat.
Akram did, however, make one minor alteration: he took hostage, not the "pigs" (one of Islam's epithets for Christians) but rather their partners in the infamous "Crusader-Zionist" alliance, the "apes" (one of Islam's epithet for Jews). He did so, not while Christians "celebrate their polytheistic holidays," but rather while Jews, whom Islam also accuses of polytheism, worshipped on their holy day, the Sabbath. And he did it all in accordance with ISIS's directive "to release our sisters," with Lady al-Qaeda—whom Akram repeatedly referred to as a "sister"—being the posterchild of female Muslim terrorist prisoners.
Raymond Ibrahim is the Judith Friedman Rosen Fellow at the Middle East Forum.