‘Random act of violence’? Texas synagogue’s president downplays antisemitism as motive for attack

Congregation Beth Israel’s president tells media that attack was a “random act of violence.”

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

The president of the Texas synagogue where a gunman took several congregants and a rabbi hostage over Shabbat in an 11-hour standoff downplayed the idea that the attack was antisemitic.

Congregation Beth Israel president Michael Finfer told media that the hostage taker, British national Malik Faisal Akram, had not selected the synagogue due to the fact it is a Jewish institution.

“We know that a situation of this magnitude could increase the concern many of us live with on a day-to-day basis due to antisemitism,” Finfer said.

“It is important to note that this was a random act of violence. Indeed, there was a one in a million chance that the gunman picked our congregation. Further, the FBI is confirming that the attacker appeared to be working alone.”

Finfer’s remarks were in stark contrast to those of U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, both of whom condemned the attack as an incident of antisemitic violence.

While the FBI and U.S. government have not officially named Akram’s exact motivations for the attack, multiple media reports said that the gunman had demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani dubbed “Lady Al-Qaeda” who is currently serving an 86-year sentence in a federal prison for attempting to murder U.S. soldiers.

In livestream footage captured as the hostage-taker held the congregants at gunpoint, Akram can be heard making a number of virulently anti-Israeli and antisemitic remarks during heated tirades.

Congregation Beth Israel’s Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker has long been involved in interfaith and social justice causes.

During the standoff, Alia Salem, a local Muslim activist who has called for the release of Siddiqui, said on Twitter that she is a personal friend of Cytron-Walker and his wife, Adena.

“They are the kindest, most gentle, and loving people who have been absolutely rock-solid friends and allies not only to me but to the entire Muslim community through thick and thin,” she wrote.

Salem recently reposted a tweet calling on Biden to “stop giving $3.8 billion in weapons a year for Israeli apartheid” and includes “Free Palestine” in her Twitter bio.