Pilgrims detour

I have a confession. Of the religious type.

I am Muslim.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

Well, neither did I, quite frankly.

But since the soon-to-be-official Trump administration is toying with the idea of a Muslim registry, I want my name added to it. If we're into sweeping general labels that stereotype a group of people without taking into account what a single one of those people believes, then count me in. 

So, I'll say it again: I am Muslim. 

Be sure to put the right Darrell Ehrlick on that list, because there are two of us here, and I'd hate to have my father accidentally rounded up.

The idea of instating the registry was floated by Carl Higbie who is a part of the Trump transition team. His idea was to start the registry to keep track of all those people coming in from foreign countries which aren't currently in our good national graces.

And what better thing to judge a person by than their religion in this the land of religious freedom?

So, I will call myself Muslim.

Nah, it doesn't matter what I believe, or that I go to church and not a mosque. Muslim, Methodist — what's the difference?

And I mean that sincerely: What is the difference when we suspect someone because of where they go to worship? As if all Muslims are the same. As if all Christians are the same.

But ask me to go to a mosque, and I'll do it gladly and pray with my brothers and sisters of other faiths, recognizing that God Almighty is strong enough to figure it out, and knowing that this old broken world can never have too many prayers of peace.

Do we think that Allah is too subversive and may secretly be telling followers to do harm to others? 

No more so than God talked to Jim Jones or David Koresh. Christian terrorists, homegrown. 

It seems to me if we really wanted to talk about subversive, it would be leading a revolution 2,000 years ago by urging people to sell everything they have, give the proceeds to the poor and follow an unemployed Jewish carpenter.

Keep in mind that my family immigrated from Russia about a century ago so that means I could go communist at any time, probably. Who knows when I might just spontaneously break out into a collective and start living in a drab concrete apartment with a hotplate and a hankering for some borscht?

Put me on that registry because when I hear that America might contemplate classifying people as a danger because of their religious beliefs, then that makes me want to radicalize into a person who would fight against a government that would interfere with a person just because they have the audacity to worship. For those pining for the days of getting back to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers (and Mothers), religious registries are the farthest thing from religious freedom and tolerance. 

Heck, it's likely I am probably already on some registry in the Trump administration simply for being a journalist and an editor. Since we've already been called scum and the lowest form of humanity, it's not unreasonable to think that we're just another group that needs a good lookin' after.

The problem is: If we're so busy ratting each other out, building lists and trying to figure out when one of us may snap, we're at risk of missing something else — more important things. How many kids go hungry? How much good could we be doing helping those who need jobs, healthcare and an education?

Because lists and registries are blunt, imprecise and demeaning, those who maintain them won't know what I am really up to; what I really believe. They won't know where I worship or the silent prayers that I'll say. They'll only know I am Muslim, and be suspicious. They won't know where I was baptized, what civic organizations I support, or what taxes I pay because all they care about is my religion.

I am Muslim. 

And proud of it.

You're welcome to join me. 

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Darrell Ehrlick's email is dehrlick@billingsgazette.com.