• Thursday, June 30, 2022

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‘Malik Akram was radicalised in Blackburn’

Congregation Beth Israel synagogue is shown on January 17, 2022 in Colleyville, Texas. A 44-year-old British national over the weekend stormed into the synagogue with a gun and held four people hostage for more than 10 hours. (Photo by Emil Lippe/Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

BRITISH security services recently investigated Malik Faisal Akram, the man behind a hostage-taking at a synagogue in Texas over the weekend.

But the investigation reportedly ended as there was no evidence to support the perception that Akram posed any threat.

However, his family said he was “radicalised” in his home town of Blackburn, The News International reported, quoting a source.

Akram, 44, was shot dead in the 10-hour siege in the small town of Colleyville on Saturday (16) and all four hostages were set free unharmed.

His father who had migrated to the UK from Jhelum, Pakistan, around five decades ago, is a respected local community figure in Blackburn and headed the Raza Masjid, an Islamic centre on Randall Street.

However, Akram, who was married to a British Gujarati woman chose to go to Masjid-e-Irfan at Eldon Road for prayers, unlike most local Pakistanis who preferred Raza Masjid.

He was reportedly part of demonstrations seeking freedom for Palestine and the release of Muslim prisoners from the infamous Guantanamo Bay detention centre.

During the Texas siege, he demanded the release of convicted Pakistani scientist Aafia Siddiqui, known as Lady Al Qaeda. But her family in Karachi, Pakistan, came to know about him only after the hostage crisis unfolded, the newspaper said.

During the incident, Siddiqui’s family was in a hospital where its critically ill member was admitted.

The hostage crisis raised questions about why Akram, whose family said he had mental health problems and was known to have a criminal record, was allowed into the US at the end of last year.

Shock in Blackburn

In Blackburn, a run-down former mill town where 28 per cent of the population identify as Asian or British Asian, activist Asif Mahmud said the close-knit local Muslim community was shocked by the Texas incident.

Mahmud, 50, said Akram called the hostage-taking “unacceptable”, echoing similar condemnation from the Muslim Council of Britain, a national umbrella body of Islamic groups.

“I’ve got friends… who are in touch with the family, and they’re obviously distraught trying to come to terms with what’s happened,” said Mahmud.

The Muslim community of Blackburn said it was “in solidarity with the Jewish community, and our sympathy goes out to the hostages and the rest of the Jewish community”.

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