Al Farrow Takes Weapons and Makes Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Heated Conversation

As we wandered through the Ice Palace in Wynwood this morning at the Pulse fair, we were drawn from across the hall by a gleaming blue and gold replica mosque. Hey, that's beautiful, we thought, wandering closer. Then, as we drew near, we realized, Hey, that mosque is made of fucking guns!

That's the vision of Al Farrow at work, an artist and engineer who takes old weapons turns them into lovely miniature houses of worship. It's an incendiary enough idea that his website recently crashed after a right-wing blogger in Holland posted photos of his work. "The discussion that started was amazing," Farrow tells Riptide.

Farrow, who lives and works in San Francisco, spent years studying architecture and engineering before finding his niche as an artist. So when he started designing and building replica churches and synagogues about 15 years ago, it felt like the natural combination of his talents.

"I always loved drafting and planning buildings, but the engineering field was so boring," Farrow says. "I finally found a way to use all my talents in this project."

By combining weapons and houses of worship, Farrow says he wants nothing more than to spark a deeper conversation on the connections between religion and violence.

"I'm not dogmatic," he says. "I'm trying to get people to ask, 'What are the connections between faith and war?' I stop there. If they're asking the question, I've done my job."

Farrow says that "98 percent" of people respond well to his project. Recently, though, a right-wing blog in Holland used one of his works to illustrate a screed against Islam, which drove so many new visitors to his site that his server crashed.

He says he's received emails from people as far flung as Pakistan asking what he means by combining mosques and synagogues with weapons, and that when he explains the work "they almost always get it."

Check out more of his projects at his website,

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink