Torah For Today: Shamima Begum

Torah For Today: Shamima Begum

Rabbi Ariel Abel looks at the Torah view on the schoolgirl who left Britain to join Isis and the revoking of her citizenship

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

Shamima Begum
Shamima Begum

Shamima Begum, who left Britain to join Islamic State has asked to return to the UK, but the Home Office has revoked her citizenship. What does the Torah say about that?

The spectre of one’s own brethren or sisters siding with mortal enemies happened at the time of Hezekiah, when a Hebrew-speaking Rabshakeh attempted to talk down the Jerusalemites and open the gates to the Assyrian army.

There is no specific penalty in Jewish law for the likes of Rabshakeh, and indeed it would be very difficult to determine precedent to rule out the possibility that Jews might fight as conscripts in an army against a Jewish state.

However, if that Jew disloyally crossed the line and left to join an enemy camp, the penalty would be similar to that meted out for a capital crime.

Even David himself was hunted down, because he was suspected of disloyalty to Saul, who was both his father-in-law and the Crown.

Saul saw to the slaughter, at the hand of Doeg the Edomite, of all the priests of Nob, because a starving David was offered some bread from the holy sanctuary in that town.

Were it not for David being elected and anointed by the prophet, Saul would have been well within both legal and moral limits to hunt down David, who represented a threat to his throne.

The Torah view would be consistent with Shamima Begum returning to face trial for any crimes she may have committed, most notably those that relate to disloyalty to the Crown and country.

Revoking her citizenship is not recommended. This assists her in avoiding the force of the law under which she could be charged and face justice, which in itself would act as a preventative for other UK citizens thinking about defecting to enemy entities.

Rabbi Ariel Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and padre to HM Armed Forces

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