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August 23, 2009

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Muslims in China start sacred fast

MILLIONS of Muslims across China greeted the Muslim holy month of Ramadan yesterday, a season of fasting and spiritual reflection.

Farmer Ma Guoxing, 48, a Muslim of the Hui ethnic group in Tuanjie Village in Wuzhong, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, got up early yesterday to attend a local mosque with thousands of male Muslims to hear preaching by an imam.

"It is a very important month for us," Ma said. "If we do a good deed in Ramadan, it will mean we do 1,000 good deeds in other periods of time.

"In a whole year, we are expecting this month to come to do more good deeds and accumulate merits," he said.

During Ramadan, the ninth month of the year in the Muslim calendar, Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking and sex from sunrise to sunset. But children, elderly people and the weak do not have to observe the fast.

A month later, Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the festival that signals the end of Ramadan.

Ethnic group

More than 2.2 million people of the Hui ethnic group live in Ningxia, or about one-third of the total population in the region. Like Ma, most of them began the Ramadan fast yesterday.

About 12,000 people in the largest Muslim community of Beijing, Niujie Street in the southern part of the city, also entered into the month of fasting yesterday.

"Ramadan can strengthen our mind, restrain our selfish desires and teach us to lead life in a healthy way," a young man named Jianming of the Hui ethnic group said.

China now has 20 million Muslims, about half of them from the Hui ethnic group.

Ramadan began on Friday in some areas of Ningxia and for millions of other Muslims in the neighboring Gansu, Qinghai provinces and the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

To greet the arrival of Ramadan, 43-year-old Abdul'ahat Kurban prepared a large amount of food for his family in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi. Like many others observing the season, he will send some of his food to friends.

"The country is so prosperous today that few people cannot eat their fill, but Muslims still keep to the tradition of offering food to others and carry forward the fine virtue Allah taught us," he said.


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