The Texas terrorist is just the latest example
When the identity of the British-Pakistani man who took four Jews hostage in Texas was released, I buried my face in my hands.
Last June, the Jewish Chronicle published an investigation into Urdu-language anti-Semitism on YouTube. Hundreds of hours of the vilest Jew-hatred is freely accessible on the video sharing platform, we revealed, racking up millions of views.
In one particularly vivid clip, the Pakistani broadcaster Zaid Hamid said: “Hitler was an angel, the way he took action against Jews, the way he killed Jews.” In another, Imran Riaz Khan, a television personality with 1.6 million followers, said: “[The Jews] lobby a lot in America and have strangled America, have it totally controlled.”
It was only after some weeks of foot-dragging that YouTube finally removed the specific videos on which we reported. But it did not shut down the channels of Zaid Hamid and Imran Riaz Khan. It did not pledge to root out other Urdu anti-Semitic material, or improve filters to prevent it appearing in future. It did not even provide us with a comment.
This matters. Of the homegrown Muslim terrorists that have committed atrocities in recent years, a large percentage has come from the British Pakistani community, many of whom are Urdu speakers.
The ringleader of the 2017 London Bridge terror attack, Khuram Butt, is the clearest example. The Isis supporter, who was involved in the killing of eight people, was radicalised partly by YouTube videos, including those by the British Pakistani hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
Another example is Usman Khan, who stabbed two students in 2019 while on temporary release from prison, before being shot on London Bridge. He too was from the British Pakistani community, and had links to Mr Choudary.
Fast forward to this week, and 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram — also a Briton of Pakistani descent — was shot dead in Texas after having taken four people hostage in a synagogue.
Although the FBI farcically claimed that the crime was “not connected to the Jewish community,” it is pretty clear that anti-Semitism was central to his worldview. Both Boris Johnson and Joe Biden branded the incident an anti-Semitic attack, with the latter adding that Akram also made a series of “anti-Israel comments”.
It has long been known that anti-Jewish prejudice is much more widespread in British Muslim communities than in the population at large.
A 2017 study found that between two and three times more British Muslims believed that Jews had too much power, exploited the Holocaust for “their own purposes”, and possessed feelings of “group superiority” over non-Jews, compared to their non-Muslim compatriots.
This affects a minority of British Muslims, and indeed a minority of the British Pakistani community. But the events in Texas remind us that more must be done to combat it. The Government’s grassroots counter-extremism initiative, Building a Stronger Britain Together, made good progress, but it was discontinued in 2020. This was one cut we couldn’t afford.
And vitally, more pressure needs to be brought to bear on internet giants like YouTube, which all too often provide the platforms that lead to murder.
Jake Wallis Simons is Editor of the Jewish Chronicle