This article was originally published on January 18, 2022.
(RNS) — On Saturday morning (Jan. 15), my wife and I were in the car with our kids in the back seat when we heard from a friend that there was a hostage situation in Colleyville, Texas, involving a rabbi.
I’m an imam in Irving, a half-hour drive from Colleyville. We checked Congregation Beth Israel’s Facebook page. There were still only a few hundred viewers — word had not spread yet that a real-life hostage taking was being livestreamed.
It was becoming clear from the hostage-taker’s ramblings that he was a Muslim. I immediately reached out to two Dallas rabbis I know, Nancy Kasten and David Stern, to offer comfort. In recent years, when any place of worship is attacked anywhere in the world — often by white supremacists — clergy in the Dallas area call each other in solidarity.
When a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, was attacked, faith leaders and congregations immediately came to our side, as they did after the (now thankfully obsolete) Muslim travel ban. But it could also be a Jewish temple or an AME church. The solidarity is the same.
My next thought was to offer my help to negotiators in calming the man down. So I dropped off my family and as I drove to Beth Israel, I got a call from Nancy and David, who advised me to wait until law enforcement knew I was coming: Though nothing was known about the perpetrator, they were concerned that if law enforcement officers saw a man wearing a kufi and beard they might make the wrong assumptions.
They weren’t wrong. I waited as Raed Sbeit, a dear friend and a local Muslim leader, and Pastor Bob Roberts, who leads nearby Northwood Church, made some calls to the police. With their connections made, I was admitted to Good Shepherd, the Catholic church across the street from Beth Israel, where the police had established a command center of sorts.
The word, by this point, had gotten out, and my phone was filling up with texts — most of them false speculation: “Did you hear there is a Palestinian man there!” “There is a guy who just blew himself up in a synagogue!” “What’s going on in Texas?”
But when I saw Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker’s wife and daughter, who were there at Good Shepherd, nothing else mattered but getting the hostages out. There was nothing political in our discussions — no talk of terrorism or how the local community would deal with the event. Our discussion was all pastoral, which was enough: What do you say to a wife and daughter who are wondering if they’ll ever see their husband and father again?