Even for someone indifferent or downright hostile to religion, Friday prayers at a mosque have a haunting sound and beauty, a compelling quality of devoutness and spirituality rare in any other faith and hard not to find deeply affecting. At Masjid-e-Tawheed, the mosque I am visiting on a crisp winter's morning, there is good reason, perhaps, for the congregation of more than 200 to feel an extra surge of passion for their faith, of feeling that theirs is the right belief system for this flawed world.
For while in one direction from the mosque, the view of barren, rocky mountains shimmering in the desert sunlight could place Masjid-e-Tawheed in any number of locations in the Islamic world, a couple of miles in the opposite direction lies what one would imagine to be the worst place in the world for an even halfway-strict Muslim – something, indeed, not unlike hell.
Masjid-e-Tawheed is a 10-minute drive from Las Vegas Boulevard, the famous Strip – undisputed world capital of gambling, fornication, adultery, prostitution, immodesty, licentiousness, drinking, gluttony, vanity, ostentation and not a little taking God's name in vain when visitors' luck runs out in the gambling halls. The sheer amount of sin, as measured by any religion, is unfeasibly high in Las Vegas; for Muslims, it is off the scale.