Torah For Today! This week: The imam who saved the mosque attacker
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Torah For Today! This week: The imam who saved the mosque attacker

Rabbi Ariel Abel reflects on the Torah's view of the recent terror attack on Finsbury Park mosque

Ariel Abel is rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

A woman leaves a floral tribute on Seven Sister Road close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after a van was driven into pedestrians near the north London mosque, leaving one man dead and eight injured.
A woman leaves a floral tribute on Seven Sister Road close to Finsbury Park Mosque in north London, after a van was driven into pedestrians near the north London mosque, leaving one man dead and eight injured.

In reprisal for the recent London Bridge terror attack, Darren Osborne ploughed his van into a crowd of Muslims congregating outside Finsbury Park mosque during Ramadan, killing one and injuring 10.

The mosque’s imam intervened  in the aftermath of the attack and ensured the attacker was not seriously injured by revenge-seekers at the scene.

So, what does the Torah say about this iman’s action?

The careless killer who commits an action of manslaughter was in Biblical times prone to be killed by a vengeful relative. The killer could escape this by fleeing to a city of refuge and was protected on the way by officers-at-law.

This means even this tribal custom accommodated by the Torah was severely regulated by the legal system.

The Amalekite tribe was considered by the Torah to be an ever-present existential threat to the Israelite people.

However, unless a threat to life was imminent, the Torah mandate to exterminate them was not carried out. Thus, even Amalekites could convert to Judaism.

Actions of vengeance are severely curbed by Scripture and the accompanying oral tradition.

A murderous attacker must be stopped in his or her tracks when on a rampage, including taking the attacker’s life to prevent further bloodletting. However, once the attacker is disarmed, killing him amounts to cold-blooded murder.

The Imam dissuaded violence against the attacker and in so doing showed the humane and just face of classical legal traditions instructed by all major religions.

Ariel Abel is padre to HM Armed Forces and rabbi of the Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation

 

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