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Millions of Chinese Muslims celebrate end of Ramadan


09:53, September 01, 2011

Muslims attend an Eid al-Fitr prayer at a mosque in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 31, 2011. Eid al-Fitr marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. (Xinhua/Cui Xinyu)

BEIJING, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- Millions of Muslims across China on Wednesday celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan -- a season of fasting and spiritual reflection.

Early Wednesday morning, Muslims from northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, as well as other Muslim-populated regions, donned festive outfits and packed local mosques.

About 5,000 Muslims went to the Yanghann Mosque in Xinjiang's capital of Urumqi to hear imams preach.

Zhu Hailun, Urumqi's top official, said Wednesday that the morning's services went off without a hitch, drawing tens of thousands of local residents. The worshippers later visited local cemeteries to honor their deceased relatives before returning home for family gatherings, he said.

Xinjiang has a population of more than 21 million people. More than half of the population are Muslims from 10 ethnic groups, including Uygur, Kyrgyz, Kazakh and Uzbek.

The local government declared Wednesday a public holiday to give Muslims more time to attend religious services and visit relatives on Eid al-Fitr.

In a Muslim cemetery in the city of Artux, located in Xinjiang's Kizilsu Kirghiz Autonomous Prefecture, worshippers stood in silent tribute to their deceased relatives, recited verses from the Koran and sprinkled rice in front of tombstones in accordance with Muslim customs.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari also joined millions of Chinese Muslims in celebrating Eid al-Fitr in China. He arrived in Urumqi on Tuesday to attend an upcoming international trade fair.

He offered his prayers at a temporary mosque set up in his hotel early Wednesday morning, Pakistani officials said.

The holy month has been a boon for local businesses. In Urumqi's bazaars and supermarkets, worshipers purchased large amounts of candles and sanza, a type of fried dough.

Meanwhile, in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and other Muslim-populated regions, Muslims donned festive outfits and swarmed local mosques.

The regional government of Ningxia extended the public holiday to two days this year, giving Muslims four days to enjoy the festival.

Muslims can also enjoy some ethnic culture gardens and tourist attractions in Ningxia for free or at a discount during the holiday.

In Niujie Street, which hosts Beijing's largest Muslim community, over 9,000 local Muslims and 158 Muslims from 16 countries filed into a local mosque to attend religious services.

"With regards from Chinese friends on Weibo, I am quite excited to enjoy the holiday in China. The Chinese are quite friendly and hospitable," said a young Egyptian man whose Chinese name is Mu Xiaolong.

With camera in hand, 54-year-old engineer and observant Muslim Liang Ying recorded the holiday celebrations and banners wishing "Happy Eid al-Fitr" in both Chinese and Arabic.

"So many friends of mine are so interested in the Muslims and our holiday. It will be a vivid way for me to show them with photos," she said.

On Sina Weibo, the country's most popular microblogging site, Muslims expressed greetings in a group titled, "Happy life of Muslims."

During Ramadan, which is the ninth month in the Muslim calendar year, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset. Children and elderly people are not required to fast.

China has 20 million Muslims, about half of which are from the Hui ethnic group.


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