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September 22, 2009

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Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr

MILLIONS of Muslims across China yesterday celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims of different ethnic groups in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and other Muslim-populated areas yesterday donned festive costumes and swarmed into mosques to hear imams preach.

After morning prayers, thousands of Muslims in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, went to the International Grand Bazaar to sing and dance.

"Ramadan is the most auspicious and noblest month of the year. No matter how busy I am, I will join in the celebrations," 32-year-old Aziz said.

Business boomed a few days earlier at bazaars in different cities in Xinjiang, especially in Urumqi.

The city is still recovering from July's riot that left 197 people dead, mostly Han people, and more than 1,700 others injured.

"Today I can earn more than double what I usually make," said restaurateur Maiwutigang. "Nowadays, people's lives are better than in the past, and they do not want to cook so many prefer going to restaurants for a big dinner and celebration."

Ayixiren, a Muslim of the Kirgiz ethnic group in Urumqi, prepared nuts, cakes, lamb and other food three days ago for the festival. She also held a traditional Kirgiz ritual at home on Sunday night to pay tribute to ancestors, mourn the deceased and pray for a happy future.

"I hope the festivities can disperse the unpleasant feelings left from July's riot and people can find stability and prosperity," she said.

Xinjiang has a population of more than 21 million, and more than half of them are Muslims from 10 ethnic groups.

In Ningxia, the regional government pronounced yesterday a public holiday to enable Muslims to visit relatives and friends as Ramadan - a period of fasting and spiritual reflection - concluded.

Sumptuous food was prepared at the family of 70-year-old Yang Jingxue, a Muslim of the Hui ethnic group, in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia.

"Our religious beliefs have long been respected," said Yang, a retired doctor. "Some officials from the regional government came to my neighborhood this morning to express best wishes."


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