Living in the America of today, it is unlikely that anyone is oblivious of the raging debate about a religious centre close to the former World Trade Centre buildings. Even those who didn’t believe in anything seem to have something to say about the project. It is like the issue of belief, tyranny and spirituality always manages to bring us together if only to disagree. Last week, I heard a news story of a New York cabbie getting stabbed by a passenger who said or thought he was Moslem, and nearly got him killed.

A few days ago, I heard that a friend of mine had told other people that I was moslem, maybe in jest, or maybe because she was confused after seeing me praise the architecture of the Abuja National Mosque on my blog. Eitherway, it was my response to this discovery that has made my question even my own liberal mindedness. I really won’t mind if anyone thought I was Hindu or Buddhist as long as I am sure that I am not. That’s what I thought, but I found myself vehemently denying the charge on the spot, and later asking a few others if they have harboured the same thought for a while or heard the same rumours. A few days later, after an amount of thinking, I’m wondering why there shouldn’t be a reason for me to have said “Oh, screw it. So what?” It should even have been possible to make stickers saying “I’m not moslem, but I could be if you wanted me to.” and put it all around my living space. The only problem with that would be the ignorant folks, like the New York stabber, who might consider me a good target practise for his bigoted rage.

So I’m thinking, if intolerance and fanaticism are vices, what about a kind of bigotry that might manifest as immediate and loud denials of claims as simple as a mismatching of religious belief? For – as I’ve found out – there is usually more to explain whenever someone in a conversation looks at the other in denial and screams, “Oh me? No never. I’m not a _________”.

Just thinking. It should make for interesting discussion.

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