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Tablighi Jamaat behind Texas synagogue attack

Texas synagogue attacker, Texas synagogue, Tablighi Jamaat,  Malik Faisal Akram, Al Qaeda, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Islamic State, Taliban, Hindus, Muslims

Counterterrorism

Tablighi Jamaat behind Texas synagogue attack

While it is already known that the Texas synagogue attacker Malik Faisal Akram was a diehard member of the Tablighi Jamaat, counterterrorism experts are already asking, if he committed this jihadist act alone or there were other individuals and organizations involved. Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic revivalist or missionary organization has its network throughout the world, including Britain and the United States and this organization has been at the forefront of spreading religious hatred and anti-Semite sentiment.

Tablighi Jamaat behind religious conversion

According to information, Tablighi Jamaat, under the disguise of preaching Islam has been mainly engaged in luring Muslims in love-trapping Hindu females and get them converted into Islam. Similarly, Tablighi Jamaat members also are continuing its religious conversion projects by maintaining total secrecy.

An intelligence source said, generally the cases of religious conversions are not officially recorded with the authorities concerned in India. These religious conversion rituals are secretly taking place either at the homes of the victims or in mosques and madrassas, mostly during the late-night hours. Following religious conversion, these people start pretending to be seculars or even atheists in order to avoid attending Hindu temples and religious programs.

The source said, almost ninety percent of those converted into Islam do not openly pronounce this amongst their neighbors and even relatives. Instead, they suddenly pretend as secularists or atheists. But in reality, they are newly converted Muslims. In some cases, these newly converted Muslims are used by Tablighi Jamaat in luring other Hindus towards religious conversions.

Pakistani spy agency uses Tablighi Jamaat

Pakistani spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) as well as a number of jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State and the Taliban have been using Tablighi Jamaat as the most convenient vessel for spreading religious extremism and Islamist jihad, despite the fact, Pakistan’s own security analysts have written in detail about how former missionaries of Tablighi Jamaat have formed some of the most dreaded terror outfits like the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Pakistan’s own investigators have said that the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen was formed by former members of the Tablighi Jamaat.

Meanwhile, according to counterterrorism experts, Tablighi Jamaat is being used for decades by notorious Jamaat-e-Islami for spreading religious extremism and anti-India sentiment, while there also are indications of deeper ties between Tablighis and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Recently Saudi Arabia had banned the activities of Tablighi Jamaat and alerted every mosque and religious centers in the country to report any activities of Tablighis. The Saudi authorities termed Tablighi Jamaat a gate to terrorism while prohibiting all its activities on Saudi soil. In several countries in the world, Tablighi Jamaat is considered as the antechamber of terrorism and religious hatred.

Despite the fact of a number of Muslim nations, including Saudi Arabia already putting a ban on the activities of Tablighi Jamaat, Pakistan has passed a resolution supporting TJ.

According to media reports, the Punjab assembly in Pakistan where Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) is in majority unanimously adopted a resolution calling the Tablighi Jamaat a force for good and a non-political peaceful organization.

The gesture of solidarity with the Tablighi Jamaat is being widely seen as a retaliatory move against Saudi Arabia, despite the fact of decade-old relations between Riyadh and Islamabad.

The statement said: “Tablighi Jamaat is a global organization. It has nothing to do with terrorism. History has shown that these people have never been involved in such activities. They are earning goodwill for Pakistan with the preaching of Islam all over the world”.

However, in January 2016 the Punjab assembly had banned Tablighi Jamaat from universities. It had also banned it from mosques surrounding all universities since lawmakers thought the Tablighi Jamaat was sympathetic towards terror outfits and would try to mislead young students.

Tablighi Jamaat, a blood-seeking monster

Following ban on activities of Tablighi Jamaat in Saudi Arabia, a section of the Muslim media has been running orchestrated propaganda with the agenda of proving this blood-seeking jihadist vessel as an innocent entity. In India, the size and strength of this dangerous group are on alarming rise, while the authorities concerned are yet to take steps in outlawing Tablighi Jamaat in the country. Instead, Tablighi Jamaat headquarters in New Delhi is witnessing rise in the number of followers of this groups.

Saudi Government official statement called Jamaat a danger to society and one of the gates of terrorism. In a tweet on December 6, the country’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs said, His Excellency the Minister of Islamic Affairs, Dr Abdullatif Al Alsheikh, directed the mosques preachers and the mosques that held Friday prayer temporary to allocate the next Friday sermon to warn against the Tablighi and Da’wah group. The statement issued by the Ministry mentioned that the Minister has directed that the sermon delivered in the mosques should cover topics including the declaration of misguidance, deviation and that it is one of the gates of terrorism, even if they claim otherwise. And to mention their major mistakes and how they are dangerous to society. The Islamic scholars delivering the religious sermons were instructed to mention that affiliation with partisan groups, including the Tablighi Jamaat, is prohibited in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is not the only country to ban TIJ. In 2013, Kazakhstan banned the Tablighi Jamaat and designated it as an extremist group. The movement is also prohibited in Iran, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

It may be mentioned here that, following 9/11 jihadist attacks, the United States government brought activities of Tablighi Jamaat under strict monitoring. According to the US officials, the teachings and beliefs of the Tablighi Jamaat have been a starting point for pushing their members to join the radical Muslim organizations. Also, the Russian authorities have warned about the dangers of the Tablighi Jamaat as well.

According to the US officials, In February 2020, it cracked down on the centers run by the Jamaat. Tablighi Jamaat is an offshoot of Islam’s fundamentalist and hardline Deobandi sect. Deobandis teach and practice a fundamentalist, exclusivist form of Islam, which blends easily with extremism and terror. Thus, laying a fertile ground for the spread of radical ideology. In the West, Tablighi Jamaat has been carefully watched by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Jamaat’s vague recruitment processes and secret and dubious financial practices make it particularly challenging for agencies and financial watchdogs to track its activities. But there is also no doubt that, even without the direct terror links, Tablighi Jamaat has radicalized entire communities across the globe.

Also, many Western jihadists have some involvement with Tablighi Jamaat at some point in their radicalization. For instance, the “Shoe bomber” Richard Reid, who in 2001 tried to set off a bomb on a commercial aircraft, and John Walker Lindh, the American citizen captured by US forces with Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan in 2001. And Jose Padilla, a US Citizen convicted in 2007 for conspiring to commit murder and fund terrorism. Once were members of Tablighi Jamaat. In Europe and North Africa, a large number of terrorists arrested for the Casablanca blasts of 2003 were also found to have connections with the local chapters of the Tablighi Jamaat.

It is worth noting that Saudis who follow Wahhabism, an ultra-conservative form of Islam and which is also the official state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia, have been forced to ban Tablighi Jamaat. The Jamaat is a Sunni Islamic missionary movement that was launched in the Mewat region of North India in 1927. By the Islamic scholar and teacher Maulana Muhammad Ilyas, who coined the slogan “Oh Muslims! Become Muslims”. The roots of this movement which is believed to be active in more than 150 countries and is the largest Islamic missionary movement today, can be traced back to the Deobandi tradition, which originated from the Darul Uloom Deoband a renowned Islamic Seminary in the Uttar Pradesh state of India. TIJ claims that their sole objective is to focus on fellow Muslims, who have been distracted by worldly affairs. And they are a peaceful, non-political, egalitarian, and devotional movement that stresses individual faith and the overall spiritual development of Muslims.

Tablighi Jamaat claims their only aim is to guide fellow Muslims to be good and dedicated believers and refrain from any political activity. But that is true as well that movement has offered a place where jihadist spotters can look for potential recruits. These facilitators often offer enthusiastic new or rededicated Muslims who have shown interest in political Islam and Jihad in their private conversation a more active way to live and develop their faith. Once a facilitator identifies such candidates, he often will segregate them from the main congregation in the mosque or community centre and put them into small prayer circles or study groups where they can be more easily exposed to jihadist ideology. Also, it is reported that members of terrorist groups Like- Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) regularly attend the Tablighi Jamaat’s congregation in Raiwind, which is the headquarter of Tablighi Jamaat in Pakistan, where they hand out recruitment pamphlets. Also, Tablighi Jamaat members have taken the initiative to create or actively facilitate the Jihadi groups. Like Harakat ul-Mujahideen (HuM), a Kashmir-based terrorist organization best known for hijacking an Air India passenger jet in 1998 and murdering a busload of French engineers in Karachi in 2002. It is believed to be the exclusive creation of Tablighi Jamaat members with the assistance of Pakistani intelligence services. Also, when the Taliban fought its way across Afghanistan in the 1990s. Support from Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan was invaluable. Many Tablighi students were likely among the volunteers sent across the border to aid Mullah Omar’s jihad against Afghanistan’s warlords.

Tablighi Jamaat and Texas synagogue attacker

Following the January 15, 2022 Texas synagogue attack, counterterrorism experts are trying to understand whether Malik Faisal Akram had perpetrated this crime as a lone wolf or there had been involvement of other parties, particularly Tablighi Jamaat. John Guandolo at Understanding the Threat has done an excellent job explaining how the Texas synagogue attack fits into the overall Islamic Movement jihad campaign against Western Civilization and the United States Constitutional Republic and the Jewish people in particular.

Here, though, let us focus on the particular involvement of two international aspects: the Tablighi Jama’at Islamic revivalist/missionary organization and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

First, the event itself: from what we know as of this writing, a Pakistani jihadi with British citizenship named Malik Faisal Akram entered the Reform Jewish Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, TX (a Dallas-Ft. Worth suburb) around 10:40 the morning of 15 January 2022 during Shabbat services. The shul’s prayer and services schedule is helpfully posted online at its monthly calendar page. Services were being livestreamed for the benefit of congregation members praying from home, so much of the event and subsequent 10-hour stand-off with law enforcement was captured on audio, although apparently not on video.

Malik Faisal Akram initially approached the closed front doors of the synagogue and was let in by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, affectionately known by his congregation as ‘Rabbi Charlie”. At first Rabbi Charlie didn’t suspect anything untoward, but interrupting Shabbat services, decided to make tea for Akram. In a 17 Jan 2022 interview with CBS News, Rabbi Charlie recounted the moment when things turned terrifying. Reportedly, Akram pulled a gun and made claims about bombs. According to a portion of the synagogue livestream broadcast obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Akram is heard saying, “I’ve got these prisoners” and “I am going to die.” While his key spoken demand was the release from U.S. federal prison of the Pakistani jihadi known as “Lady Al-Qa’eda” – true name, Aafia Siddiqui – that was but a pretext for a broader objective. Akram claimed that he and Siddiqui would be “going to Jannah (Muslim belief of heaven) after he sees her”, according to a statement from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

What neither Rabbi Charlie, his congregation members, nor apparently Local Law Enforcement Officers (LLEOs) and the FBI have understood was that, with these statements, Akram was reciting his belief in core Islamic doctrine. As Robert Spencer wrote in PJ Media, antisemitism is deeply rooted in the Qur’an itself, where it is written that “Jews are called the strongest of all people in enmity toward the Muslims (5:82); they fabricate things and falsely ascribe them to Allah (2:79; 3:75, 3:181); they disobey Allah and never observe his commands (5:13), and Muslims should wage war against them and subjugate them under Islamic hegemony (9:29), among many other slanders.” Further, as Spencer writes, the abduction of infidels as hostages is also sanctioned in the Qur’an (Sura 47, Verse 4), where it is stipulated that Muslims may choose to kill hostages, enslave them, ransom them, or “show favor” and release them. Similarly applicable is Sura 9, Verse 111, which offers the promise of paradise to those who “kill and are killed” for Allah, in the act of jihad, thus becoming a shahid.

While it is a tremendous relief to know that Rabbi Charlie and all the other hostages got out of the situation alive and unharmed, their unfamiliarity with these Qur’anic passages may well have contributed to their unquestioning acceptance of interfaith dialogue associations that in retrospect may be seen as unwise. Indeed, as the synagogue’s Mission Statement declares, “we believe in interfaith inclusion” and “Tikkun Olam (Repair the World)”.

Further, as the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue’s Facebook pages show, the Rabbi and his congregation had promoted interfaith events, including a November 2, 2019 and November 6, 2021 “Peace Together Walk”, with a photo of the walk beginning in front of the Colleyville Masjid (Colleyville Mosque), also known as the “Colleyville Association of Mid-Cities”.

The Islamic Center of Southlake also was a participant. Unfortunately, each of these mosques has Muslim Brotherhood/jihadist connections, as documented by Understanding the Threat. Just one of those connections, for example, is the Imam Siraj Wahhaj, of the Brooklyn, NY Al-Taqwa Mosque, who was specifically named in a list of the unindicted co-conspirators at the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial.

Now, to the Tablighi-Jama’at and Pakistani connections. As we now know, Akram entered the US through JFK Airport in late December 2021 with his British passport on the Customs and Border Patrol (CBP)’s visa waiver program. He would have obtained that entry permit through the CBP’s online portal. Once waived through Customs at JFK, Akram was free to travel onward anywhere in the US that he wished. It is unlikely that CBP is aware of what Tablighi Jamaat is or that Akram was affiliated with it. CBP should have, but possibly didn’t know either about Akram’s criminal record, as revealed by his brother. As Ilana Freedman documented in her excellent October 2016 monograph, “Gateway to Jihad: Tablighi Jamaat”, Tablighi Jama’at (TJ) is a global Islamic proselytizing organization with millions of followers in at least 80 countries. Although TJ is jihadist, it is not known to commit terrorism per se, but rather sends its missionaries to preach in mosques and Islamic Centers to strengthen the commitment of Muslim faithful to the essential doctrine and law (shariah) of Islam.

Such dawah efforts, however, in many cases, serve as a conveyer belt or gateway to kinetic jihad, as was the case with Akram.

Akram himself, born in the United Kingdom (UK) of a family that hailed from the Jhelum district in the Pakistani Punjab, reportedly had traveled abroad on just such missions. According to reporting from the Hindustan Times, in the Blackburn, Lancashire area of England where Akram grew up, he “served as the head of the Rondell Street Islamic Centre in the London area, also known as Reza Masjid, where largely Muslims of Pakistani origin prayed. He also prayed at the Eldorado Masjid that was frequented by Gujarati Muslims in the region.” Two teenagers, possibly Akram’s sons, were arrested by UK Counterterrorism police in South Manchester on Sunday 16 Jan 22 and held for questioning.

As we can see, the connections to Pakistan are many. Nevertheless, it must be said that any possible connections to the Pakistani government or to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency are premature at this point. It is instructive, though, to recall the many Islamic terror attacks in which ISI has been involved. We may begin with the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, in which, according to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) drawing on classified Indian government documents, the Pakistani ISI was “heavily involved”. The following year, on 30 December 2009, according to declassified US government documents, a Jordanian doctor reportedly recruited and dispatched by the ISI, detonated a suicide vest at the CIA’s Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, killing seven and injuring an additional six. Then, on 2 December 2015, U.S.-born Syed Rizwan Farook and his Pakistani wife, Tashfeen Malik carried out a deadly shooting attack at Farook’s office Christmas party in San Bernardino, CA.  The couple had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State online and expressed support openly for Islamic jihad. Malik had attended college and the Al-Huda International Welfare Foundation women’s Islamic seminary in the Punjab before marrying Farook through an online arranged wedding that took place in Saudi Arabia in 2014.

Once again, while direct ISI involvement in this attack has not been publicly documented, the area of the Punjab where Malik studied is known as a stronghold of Deobandi jihadist groups, such as Lashkar-e Jangvi and Lashkar-e Taiba, both closely affiliated with the ISI. Then, in June 2016, Omar Mateen, who identified himself as “an Islamic soldier” in talks with a crisis negotiator, opened fire inside the Orlando, FL Pulse nightclub, killing 49 people and leaving 53 wounded. Mateen, age 29, was a US citizen, born in Queens, NYC to Afghan immigrant parents. At some point, Mateen had attended the Islamic Center of Ft. Pierce, whose imam, Syed Shafeeq Rahman, quickly after the shooting, named Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, a local leader of the Hamas-related Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), as the mosque’s new spokesman. Rahman, also a General Practitioner medical doctor, obtained his medical degree from the Ayub Medical College in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Finally, a brief mention must be made about the 2018 cybersecurity breach involving multiple Members of Congress. The Pakistani Awan brothers, who were given access to highly sensitive government information without a background check, were permitted to work remotely – from Pakistan – up to several months at a time, according to investigative reporter Luke Rosiak.

In summary, then, there are far too many Pakistani connections to jihadist attacks and operations, spanning many years, to ignore. Nevertheless, those connections would appear to be rarely noted and only perfunctorily investigated.

In my opinion, it is essential to further investigate the background of Malik Faisal Akram and involvement of Pakistani ISI as well as Tablighi Jamaat behind the Texas synagogue attack. At the same time it is important for the Western intelligence operatives, including FBI to duly cross-check every British Muslim before they are granted access permission to those countries. For years, Britain has been gradually emerging as the jihadist breeding ground with a number of radical Islamic terrorist groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah, Tablighi Jamaat and Hizbut Tahrir operating freely thus spreading the vicious poison of religious hatred and anti-Semitism within the society. Muslims in the United Kingdom, especially those migrants from various Afro-Asian nations are showing signs of embracing radical Islam and jihadist indoctrination thus considering non-Muslims as “enemies of Allah” and believing in waging jihad against them as “holy task”.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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