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Brother of Texas synagogue hostage-taker says ‘religious nuts got a hold of him’

Gulbar Akram also asserts that brother Akram had not been antisemitic: ‘He didn’t hate Jews. One of his closest friends is Jewish’

This January 2, 2022 photo provided by OurCalling, LLC shows Malik Faisal Akram, at a Dallas homeless shelter. (OurCalling, LLC via AP)
This January 2, 2022 photo provided by OurCalling, LLC shows Malik Faisal Akram, at a Dallas homeless shelter. (OurCalling, LLC via AP)

The brother of the British terrorist who assaulted a Texas synagogue on January 15 and took four people hostage has said his brother was radicalized by “religious nuts” and has called on Muslim community leaders and authorities to take stronger action to stop indoctrination.

Gulbar Akram told The Sun that his brother, Malik Faisal Akram, had also not harbored hatred for Jews, at least in the past.

“He didn’t hate Jews. One of his closest friends is Jewish,” he said.

The Akrams were raised in Blackburn, northern England, in a family that originated in Pakistan. Gulbar said Malik had once led a fairly normal British life, being a fan of Sunday roasts, the Blackburn Rovers soccer club and the TV comedy “Only Fools and Horses.”

However, trouble started in his youth when he was expelled from school for fights and for “hustling.” His parents then sent him to a military school in Pakistan. He later return to the UK and enrolled in a business course but failed to complete it.

“He was very intelligent but he was in a rush to make money.” Gulbar said. “He didn’t care if something was stolen if he could make some money.”

Gulbar said his brother’s fall into religious extremism began in 2003, when he joined Tablighi Jamaat sect. At one point he burned £60,000 ($80,000) in cash outside a mosque, saying it was “dirty money.”

Malik married in 2004 and had six children. But his marriage also became troubled. Gulbar said his brother would disappear for months on missionary work for the sect.

Congregation Beth Israel hostage taker, identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram. (Courtesy)

“Different characters started turning up. One of them [had been] locked up for terrorism so the family was worried.” he recounted.

In 2016 Malik’s marriage fell apart. He shuttered a pharmacy business he was running at the time, and disappeared, traveling around the world, sometimes reappearing, but in a general disconnect from his family.

Eventually Malik’s problematic activities and associations were noticed by Britain’s MI5 counter-terrorism officials, who investigated him in 2020 but eventually closed the case due to lack of evidence.

“He wasn’t an angel,” Gulbar said. “But if these religious nuts hadn’t got a hold of him, this would never have happened… He would be alive now if he hadn’t joined the extremists.”

He added that “The mosques, Imams, police and the authorities all need to do more to prevent this kind of thing happening.”

Gulbar was apparently the last person to talk to Malik alive, as the latter called him from within the synagogue during the standoff with police and the FBI, shortly before his death, in a conversation that has made its way online.

A law enforcement vehicle is seen near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images/AFP)

On the phone, Malik ranted about Jews, jihadism and US wars and said he would be coming home in a body bag, as his brother tried to persuade him to give himself up, to no avail.

His four hostages all emerged unharmed; one was freed and the other three, including the rabbi, escaped.

In the tirade published by the Jewish Chronicle, Akram said, “Why do these f*cking motherf*ckers come to our countries, rape our women and f*ck our kids? I’m setting a precedent.”

“Maybe they’ll have compassion for f*cking Jews,” he said, in reference to the American authorities. He was demanding the release of the jailed Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence after being convicted of shooting at American military personnel in Afghanistan.

US and UK officials have called the attack antisemitic. Akram made the Texas rabbi call a rabbi in New York twice during the incident, and one of the hostages said Akram chose the synagogue due to his belief in antisemitic tropes.

Akram told his brother during the siege, “I’ve come to die,” adding that he wanted to “go down as a martyr” and was “bombed up” with “every ammunition.”

“I’m opening the doors for every youngster in England to enter America and f*ck with them,” Akram said. “We’ll give them f*cking war.”

His brother urged him to give himself up.

“You don’t need to do this. Why are you doing this?” Gulbar told his brother. “Just pack it in. You’ll do a bit of time and then you’ll get out.”

“These guys you’ve got, there are innocent people, man,” he said.

A police vehicle patrols an intersection on January 15, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas, near Congregation Beth Israel. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images via AFP)

The Chronicle said the recording was part of a longer 11 1/2-minute recording that it obtained from a “security source.”

Suggesting the attack was long-planned, Akram said: “I’ve prayed to Allah for two years for this. I’m coming back home in a body bag.”

The Times has said Akram had twice been referred to a British government program called Prevent, which aims to dissuade people seen as vulnerable to radicalization.

It cited sources as saying Akram was referred in 2016 and 2019 over “concerns about his anti-Western and conservative Islamic views.” But it was unclear whether he engaged with the voluntary scheme, the daily added.

American and British authorities are investigating whether more could have been done to identify the risk posed by Akram in time to prevent the attack.

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