Words 2

Another tendentious word, while we’re on the subject – another one that we’ve been hearing a lot lately (and hear a lot all the time anyway).


Yeah, so, what’s wrong with that? Well, it depends. It can be benign enough, if and when everything is going well. Except that condition never seems to apply, does it. And when things are not going well, community can decidedly cut the other way. Community works to exclude as well as include, as many people have pointed out; it fosters dislike or hatred of non-members as well as loyalty to and solidarity with members; and it can isolate. Trevor Phillips on yesterday’s The World Tonight talked about the way the multicultural emphasis on ‘difference’ works to drive people apart rather than bringing them together. I think both words do that. Every time the radio or newspaper refers to ‘the Muslim community’ it drives the nail in a little further – there is such a thing as ‘the Muslim community,’ it is in some way homogenous enough to be labeled a community (how? how can it be?), and for everyone in that putative community, their being Muslim is the most salient thing about them. Which, apart from anything else, is depressing for secularists and atheists (as well as converts to other religions) in that ‘community’ who really don’t want to be or to be called ‘Muslim’ at all, but who feel shoved back into that category by the constant iteration of the label.

The word is meant to be kind and caring and respectful, but it has some highly coercive, limiting overtones, along with a separatist one. Raise an eyebrow when you hear it.

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