In mid-August I attended the grand opening of the new Al-Farooq Masjid in midtown Atlanta, a complex that includes gardens, fountains, a school and a 46,000-square-foot prayer hall with room for 1,800 worshipers. Along with other guests, I admired the hand-painted dome, the carved stonework, and the custom-made carpet with individual prayer spaces woven in, all pointing toward Mecca.
Since usury is off-limits in Islam, the $10 million building is paid for. It sits on the site of the old prayer hall in this once shabby neighborhood of Atlanta where Muslims from more than 30 countries have prayed since 1980. That long ago, visitors who had a hard time finding the masjid sometimes ended up at the Fox Theatre on Peachtree Street, fooled by the onion dome and minarets of the Yaarab Temple built there in 1929. Al-Farooq is easy to find, with its 65-foot golden dome gleaming from a rise on 14th Street.