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This should have satisfied the gun holder, but the problem is that cops are no imams, and religious law is not their domain. “Say the Fatiha,” the cop barked at me.
It’s been a long time since I studied Islam, and I didn’t exactly remember, beyond the very beginning.
I tried nevertheless. I said, “Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim, al-hamdu lillahi rabil alameen” [“In the name of Allah, the compassionate and merciful, praise be to Allah, lord of the worlds’].
Should be good, I thought. But the cop said, “Continue!”
Who did he think he was? Why should I pray to him?
I didn’t, and he talked to his colleague, discussing why I was behaving so strangely. They talked and talked, and finally they decided: “You are Christian. No entry.”
But I wanted to pray, I said.
Well, they argued, if I wanted to pray that much, I should enter the mosque via the Jew and Christian entrance. But the Infidels’ entrance, I protested, was closing at 11:00 a.m., in 55 minutes. The cops were not impressed. The walk is only 29 minutes from here, one of them said, and he pointed at the road I should take.
I looked at the name of the road. Via Dolorosa. I was to walk the way of that old Jew, Jesus Christ. Not easy to be a true Muslim.
I walked and walked and walked. Soon 29 minutes had passed, and no infidels’ entry in sight.
I spotted another entrance, for Muslims only, several feet away. I swore my allegiance to the Prophet, loud enough for the Israeli prime minister in west Jerusalem to hear me, but the cop at the entrance was obviously deaf, yelling at me, “Fatiha!”
I tried once more, reciting the beginning of it quickly, the way some Hasidic Jews do in synagogues when they recite loudly just the beginning of prayers, only this new cop didn’t know from Hasidic Jews. He said, “Don’t stop, continue!”