FORT WORTH — The melting-pot metaphor that’s applied to America annoys Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks.“I think of America more as a stew, where a carrot remains a carrot and a potato remains a potato, but each contributes its own flavor to a dish that becomes altogether something else,” Brooks said Friday at the dedication of the Eastchase Islamic Center in east Fort Worth. “It is for this reason that we cherish the diversity of this community.”Nabil Bawa, president of Al-Hedayah Academy, a 6.5-acre campus where the $1.5 million mosque was built, found that statement appropriate on a couple of levels. True, the mosque will serve as a community gathering and enrichment venue in addition to its role as a place of worship.But Bawa also noted that, at noon, with 90-degree weather bearing down on a courtyard crowded with Muslims and local dignitaries: “We’re all melting.”Bawa then quickly concluded the dedication ceremony and ribbon-cutting that officially opened Tarrant County’s sixth mosque.The center provides a convenient place of worship for Muslims who call east Fort Worth and north Arlington home, and it’s associated with a school that’s been serving the Islamic community since 1992, said Dr. Nizam Peerwani, an Al-Hedayah Academy board member.“We have a lot of Muslims in the Eastchase area,” Peerwani said.Tarrant County is home to 60,000 Muslims, said Peerwani, the county’s medical examiner.Though religious services are the focus of the Eastchase Islamic Center, it is like virtually all of the more than 2,100 mosques in the United States in that it is unlike its counterparts in the Middle East, Peerwani said.A mosque in the U.S. isn’t just where people worship. It’s also a community center, an arena for social gatherings, a place to access welfare organizations, a venue for voter registration drives and a site frequented by local political candidates, Peerwani said. The new mosque — a couple of blocks north of Interstate 30 at 8601 Randol Mill Road — is no exception.“We have a lot of good relationships with our neighborhood,” Peerwani said. “We interact socially. The neighborhood kids come and play on the playground and the basketball courts when the campus is open.”Services at the 10,000-square-foot mosque take place Fridays, but to accommodate Muslims’ prayers, a caretaker will open the mosque five times a day.More than half the building is its prayer hall. The pulpit and the mosque’s massive front doors were handmade by Lebanese craftsman Abbas Makki, Peerwani said.The mosque itself has a traditional design with a large central dome, columns and arches. Huge windows in the prayer hall are recessed and have marble risers where people may sit and read the Quran during Ramadan, Peerwani said.One of the most important elements is the absence of an element. There are no icons, Peerwani said.“We can have calligraphy with the beautiful names of God,” Peerwani said, “but no statues or paintings.”The words on a congratulatory plaque that Brooks presented to the congregation carried what he said are the hopes of the mosque’s neighbors.“May God continue to prosper the work of your hands,” Brooks read. This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.
Terry Evans, 817-390-7620 Twitter: @fwstevans