It’s unfortunate that I have to make this post, but my Facebook feed is now peppered with people quoting some New York Rabbi or Academic (who looks like a kid) answering a question about when genocide is permitted. I will not post a link because I do not want to direct traffic there.
For starters, I’ve come to know many Rabbis and many, many academics. And, I definitely know many, many, many Islamic scholars. While some of the Rabbis and I have disagreements on what has been happening in that region over the decades, I know no Rabbi who endorses genocide, even in the slightest. It should be obvious, but it is unfortunate that I have to say it. To allow other thinking is to allow some notion that all Catholic priests are pedophiles and all Islamic scholars are terrorists. I don’t think I met a single scholar of any tradition who endorses the genocide of a people. Maybe my experience is limited, but I would suggest, considering the depth and breath of these interactions, that my experience is the norm. History does teach us that there are numerous scholars elevated by kings and despots, who are promoted to high positions because they justify tyranny. Again, they are not the norm of scholarship.
And, when I speak of scholars, I speak of the real thing, not those people who dabble and dress in costumes. The ability that some people have incorrectly quote random passages, to lambast the community of scholars, or to speak in venom does not make them scholars, as much as it makes them dimwits. The ability that some people have to search online videos for information does not make them scholars, as much as it makes them foolish.
I do, however, know many scholars across traditions (religious and secular) who do academically explore every type of question, including the questions about violence. That is part of being a scholar: to honestly answer the questions, even when neither the questions nor the answers are pleasant. Likewise, it is in the process of scholarship that we present views, expecting response and debate. Such a method of deriving answers and debating them and even possibly seeking out “truth” is ancient and current.
The questions arise when they are hot topics. Scholars, especially those who have no experience as public intellectuals, are not known for their pragmatism in choosing which questions to answer, and when and how to answer them. This is why scholars should often be kept away from the microphone because they will say things that people are unable to hear.
And, I do know many scholars who are bigots, chauvinists, supremacists, triumphalists. The vast majority of such scholars are not in houses of worship, but are in academia, and even then, should not be taken as an excuse to overlook the gems in academia. But, the vast majority of people calling for bigotry, supremacy, and even genocide in action or impression, in my experience, have been angry or terrified lay people who need better leadership. And, leaders.
And Allah knows best.