Sikh : India :: Uyghur : China

3818marie_eve.jpgIn an article published in the academic journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, last year, a PhD student in political science, Marie-Eve Reny makes a comparative study of political mobilization amongst the Sikhs of Punjab and the Uyghurs of Xinjiang in China.

The Uyghurs are a Muslim community of Turkic descent in Western China. Many in the region have been fighting for their independence from China to establish Uyghurstan.

For her abstract, Marie-Eve Reny writes:

This article examines the reasons why the politicization of language has not been translated into disruptive forms of ethnic mobilization as opposed to the political salience of religion among the Uyghurs in Xinjiang throughout the 1990s and the Sikhs before and after the creation of Punjab in 1966. The article argues, from a structural-rationalist perspective, that language-based claims in Xinjiang and in Punjab have been accommodated by the respective central governments to a larger extent than religious claims have. Accommodation has taken the form of particular policies as well as greater incorporation of minority elites on the basis of language, which have in turn significantly reduced the possibilities of anti-regime sentiments and the incentives for disruptive forms of pressure on the basis of linguistic claims among the minority group. Religious claims have, however, not been accommodated in a similar way.

Looking at the Punjabi Suba movement and then later at the evolution of the Uyghurs movement, Reny asks an important question:

The literatures on Sikh and Uyghur nationalism have failed to distinguish the impact of the various politically salient identities on patterns of ethnic mobilization and have been unable to explain why some politicized identities have become a greater source of contention than others. Why has language not become a source of contention in Xinjiang and in Punjab to the extent that religion has? In other words, why has the politicization of language not led to disruptive patterns of ethnic mobilization such as those caused by the politicization of religion? [Emphasis Added]

In her answer to this question, she states that:

In other words, the politicization of religion in some settings is not more contentious because religion is inherently a deeper form of identification, associated with significant symbolism.

However, she does find religion more contentious under two conditions:

First, religious groups perceive themselves as the victims of high levels of socioeconomic and political discrimination.

Second, militant groups tend to disseminate religious discourses within their community which, depending on their content and the nature of the symbols they draw upon, hold the potential of having a deep psychological impact on supporters and the likelihood that they participate in disruptive mobilization.

Why language discourse cannot mobilize these symbols seems to indicate that there may be a deeper form of identification based on ethnicity, religion, or sect. Moving beyond the case studies of Reny, many other academics are beginning to discuss a Shiite Revival in the Middle East. However, some have modified this thesis and believe in the Middle East we are seeing a general resurgence of religious/sectarian identities. Amer Mohsen, a political scientist, writes: There is a Shiite revival, a Sunni revival, a Druze revival, an Alawite revival and a Kurdish revival all happening simultaneously. The pandoras box of civil war opened up by the US occupation in Iraq seems to be spilling into other regions as well, including Lebanon.

So my question is in the 21st century will religion be the primary identity form that serves to mobilize marginalized communities? If so, why? If not, why not?

Also for an interesting discussion on the interstices of language, religion, Guru, and Gurbani, see the Sikhnet Film Festival 1st prize winning documentary “35.”

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5 Responses to “Sikh : India :: Uyghur : China”

  1. Prem says:

    Second, militant groups tend to disseminate religious discourses within their community which, depending on their content and the nature of the symbols they draw upon, hold the potential of having a deep psychological impact on supporters and the likelihood that they participate in disruptive mobilization.

    I have seen this a million times. Hate rhetoric and persecution of whichever poor soul has offended the militants, the rallying cry of 'Sikhi Under Threat'. The militants need constant hatred to be replenished, and they need constant war. In the West the object of hatred is not just India and Hindus generally, it is Sikhs who are labelled 'traitors' or whichever writer, journalist or academic can be subject to the fury of the militant lynchmob.

  2. Prem says:

    Second, militant groups tend to disseminate religious discourses within their community which, depending on their content and the nature of the symbols they draw upon, hold the potential of having a deep psychological impact on supporters and the likelihood that they participate in disruptive mobilization.

    I have seen this a million times. Hate rhetoric and persecution of whichever poor soul has offended the militants, the rallying cry of ‘Sikhi Under Threat’. The militants need constant hatred to be replenished, and they need constant war. In the West the object of hatred is not just India and Hindus generally, it is Sikhs who are labelled ‘traitors’ or whichever writer, journalist or academic can be subject to the fury of the militant lynchmob.

  3. Jodha says:

    Some recent news about the Uighurs

    Finally, 17 Uighurs that had been detained illegally and without charges by the US government in Guantanimo Bay have been released.

    The Washington Post reports:

    It was the first time a U.S. judge has ordered the release of a Guantanamo Bay detainee, and the first time a foreign national held at the facility in Cuba has been ordered transferred to the United States.

    U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina issued his ruling in dramatic fashion from the bench in a packed courtroom, saying he was ordering the release of 17

    Uighurs because the government provided no proof that they were enemy combatants or security risks. Under the order, the men will live with Uighur families in the Washington area until a more permanent situation can be found.

    "Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without cause, the government's continued detention of the [detainees] is unlawful," Urbina said. "Because separation-of-powers concerns do not trump the very principle upon which this nation was founded — the unalienable right to liberty — the court orders the government to release the [men] into the United States."

    While I am sure the Justice Department will cry foul and make some baseless argument about the separation of powers (oops, too late!). Despite the government robbing them of 7 years of their life, I am overjoyed by their release and the work of Florida and DC area activists.

  4. Jodha says:

    Some recent news about the Uighurs

    Finally, 17 Uighurs that had been detained illegally and without charges by the US government in Guantanimo Bay have been released.

    The Washington Post reports:

    It was the first time a U.S. judge has ordered the release of a Guantanamo Bay detainee, and the first time a foreign national held at the facility in Cuba has been ordered transferred to the United States.

    U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina issued his ruling in dramatic fashion from the bench in a packed courtroom, saying he was ordering the release of 17

    Uighurs because the government provided no proof that they were enemy combatants or security risks. Under the order, the men will live with Uighur families in the Washington area until a more permanent situation can be found.

    "Because the Constitution prohibits indefinite detention without cause, the government's continued detention of the [detainees] is unlawful," Urbina said. "Because separation-of-powers concerns do not trump the very principle upon which this nation was founded — the unalienable right to liberty — the court orders the government to release the [men] into the United States."

    While I am sure the Justice Department will cry foul and make some baseless argument about the separation of powers (oops, too late!). Despite the government robbing them of 7 years of their life, I am overjoyed by their release and the work of Florida and DC area activists.

  5. There are few disadvantages of group discussion as well. The shy students hesitate while participating in the group discussion and they become anxious. This anxiety can harm their performance.