In the mid-morning of Jan. 15, it was confirmed that four people had been taken hostage at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, during their Shabbat morning services. The captor sought the release of his “sister,” Aafia Siddiqui from a federal prison in Fort Worth, near the synagogue. It was quickly revealed that the captor was not related to Siddiqui, according to a CNN article. 

Siddiqui is currently serving an 86-year sentence after being convicted in 2010 for the attempted murder of American soldiers and officials in Afghanistan. In 2008, she was arrested by Afghanistan officials, and during this time, as stated by NBC news; “Siddiqui was carrying notes detailing a ‘mass casualty attack’ on New York City sites, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and the Brooklyn Bridge, according to prosecutors and court records.”

Siddiqui resided in America from about 1991 to 2002, moving back to Pakistan post 9/11. While in the U.S., she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for her undergrad, and in 1995, enrolled at Brandeis, where she received her PhD in Neuroscience in 2001.

Siddiqui, who, according to a article, “has a long history of antisemitic statements,” attended Brandeis at a time when non-Jews only made up about 40% of the population, says a NYT article from 1998.

While on trial, she attempted to dismiss her lawyers because of their Jewish backgrounds, and also demanded that no Jews be jurors for her case, as stated in two articles from The Guardian. 

In the book “Faith, Lies, and the War on Terror: The Lives of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Aafia Siddiqui,” author Deborah Scroggins describes a letter written by Siddiqui to then President Barack Obama. Siddiqui wrote, “Study the history of the Jews. They have always back-stabbed everyone who has taken pity on them and made the ‘fatal’ error of giving them shelter ... and it is this cruel, ungrateful back-stabbing of the Jews that has caused them to be mercilessly expelled from wherever they gain strength. This why ‘holocausts’ keep happening to them repeatedly! If they would only learn to be grateful and change their behavior!!”

On Jan. 16, President Rob Liebowitz sent an email to the University acknowledging and condemning the hostage situation, as well as expressing support for Jewish and Muslim students. He also acknowledged Siddiqui’s connection to the University, writing; “while Siddiqui received a PhD here more than two decades ago, it goes without saying that Brandeis has no connection to the attack in Texas, and condemns it in the strongest possible terms. The crimes for which Siddiqui was convicted took place outside the U.S. years after she studied here.”