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There are basically two introductory stories here. One is Yasir finally finding a place for the mosque in a church, the other is Amaar coming in from Toronto as the new imam. And there’s plenty of misunderstandings all around.

Amaars departure to Mercy features the must-have story about Muslims and airport security. Amaar is talking on the phone:

Mom, stop it with the guilt. No, don’t put dad on! I’ve been planning this for months it’s not like I dropped a bomb on ‘im. Oh dad think it’s suicide? So be it; this is Allah’s plan for me. I’m not throwing my life away, I’m moving to the Prairies!

A woman nearby hears the first part, sees a Muslim, thinks terror attack and gets him arrested. It’s a cliche, but it’s also a fact that security controls are different for people who have an Arab sounding name or who look Muslim or Arab [as an aside, you can also get arrested on a plane for being Jewish and strange, i.e., wearing tefilin]. This is the same type of association that takes place when Jews get attacked because of Israel. We over-generalize and blame people for something they have nothing to do with. If you teach people that a Jew who lives outside of Israel is not responsible for Israeli politics, you should also teach people that not every religious Muslim is a terrorist.

There are many more funny or interesting things, but I want to concentrate on the scene where Joe is looking for Yasir and finds the whole community bowing in prayer. He is totally freaked out by the sheer foreignness. Jewish prayer doesn’t have the extensive bowing, but nonetheless it feels very alien to the typical Christian-influenced visitor. I have brought a few visitors to services over time and all of them have felt completely lost in a traditional orthodox service. First, the language issue, of course, our services are completely in Hebrew. But also it is not as "orderly" as church. Yes, people mostly do what the prayer leader does, but they sometimes go at their own pace, several people speak at once, some shout a loud "Amen" during repetition of Amidah or in Kaddish – it can feel pretty foreign to an outsider.

So, should we adapt? Should we change the services to be more "normal" and "orderly" (that’s what Reform did)? Should we not wear tefillin and tallit? Should we pray in the language of the land instead of Hebrew? Should we change our dress to fit in (no kipa, no long skirts, no beards)? I don’t know. But when we decide to not change, we should keep in mind that we look and act foreign and we shouldn’t be annoyed if we get strange looks and suspicion. And work to get others accept the differences.

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