Community v community

The ‘community’ trope turns up yet again and confuses the issue yet again.

Cities and towns across the northern Indian state of Punjab are shut in response to a general strike called by the Sikh community…Sikhs are demanding an apology from the leader of a religious sect who appeared in an advert dressed like one of the Sikh religion’s most important figures. Sikh community leaders say it is an insult to their religion. Last week, thousands took to the streets. One man was shot dead in clashes that followed.

How can a general strike have been called by the Sikh community? What does that mean? What are we meant to understand by it? It’s annoying because it makes the report harder to understand than it would otherwise be. It makes it sound as if all Sikhs called the general strike, when for all we know it could be a small minority of Sikhs that called it. It could also be a large minority, or half or a small or large majority, but calling it ‘the community’ disguises and obfuscates all that and leaves the impression that all Sikhs think alike on the subject. For all we know there are huge numbers of Sikhs furiously rejecting the whole idea of calling a general strike because of some footling insult. It’s actually more insulting to ‘the Sikh community’ to pretend all Sikhs think alike than it is to dress up as a guru.

At least the article does later note that there’s a lot of working up going on.

Some analysts say Sikh leaders, angry at the direct intervention by the DSS in the elections, seized the opportunity to whip up popular sentiments of their community against the sect. They say the latest conflict threatens to lead to a polarisation of the communities and the dispute could trigger widespread unrest.

In one sentence the DSS is a sect, in the next it’s a community. Ho hum.

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