Is a terrorist a terrorist only when a law enforcement officer or politician says he is?
Malik Faisal Akram entered a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, held four hostages, including the rabbi, and expressed support for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist who was sentenced to 86 years in prison for attempting to murder and assault members of the U.S. military in Afghanistan. If some people refuse to acknowledge these related incidents as terrorism, they are in deep denial, which does not change what happened. Even President Biden called the incident what it was — "an act of terror."
Initially, an FBI spokesman claimed Akram's motive was "not specifically related to the Jewish Community." Really? Then why didn't he visit a Baptist church?
After an outcry from Jewish and non-Jewish sources, the FBI reversed itself and admitted the obvious: it was an act of terrorism. Fortunately, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three other hostages escaped unharmed. Akram was reportedly killed in a standoff with police.
Kenneth Marcus, founder and chairman of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, said the incident goes far deeper than what happened in Texas. Marcus said it was "obviously a matter of antisemitism" and "a failure of the FBI to understand this is something of a pattern with law enforcement in the United States and frankly in Europe." The initial comment by FBI Special Agent Matt DeSarno denying a connection between the incident and the Jewish community "was not a mere slip-up," said Marcus. "It is symptomatic of a widespread failure with law enforcement to understand the problems of antisemitism and anti-Zionism."
Sarah Stern, president of The Endowment for Middle East Truth, responded to my request for a statement: "Unfortunately, despite the fact that there has been a huge thawing of relations between Israel and many of the Sunni Arab nations, in far too many pockets of the Muslim population, the old prejudices and conspiracy theories of the past are lingering. According to the investigative journalist Steve Emerson, 'In rallies and seminars throughout the past year, groups including the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) Council for Social Justice demanded that Siddiqui be freed."'
Akram, a British citizen, had entered the U.S. late last month and allegedly bought a gun off the street. How did immigration officials not flag him? Britain apparently knows something as authorities in Manchester, England, arrested Akram's two teenage sons late Sunday.
The Texas synagogue incident should not be seen as separate from the general lawlessness sweeping the country. From shootings in New York, to the stabbing of a young woman in Los Angeles, to looting and unprovoked attacks on the streets in some of our major cities, increasing numbers of the public are fearful about their safety. When I was in school, a visit by the police indicated something serious had occurred. Today, police cars are parked outside schools during the entire school day. The church I attend feels it necessary to place a security guard at the entrance. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, says people have been trained to spot potential threats from people entering the building and that Dallas police are also on hand.
All of this is a reflection of the decadence now gripping our society. If people can't feel safe in their houses of worship, schools and while walking down a street, then we have a problem that is deeper than terrorism and lawlessness. It is a problem of the spirit, which even government can't reach or control.
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