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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 11:32 GMT 12:32 UK
Muslim world celebrates Ramadan
Mosque in Gaza City
Ramadan begins for most Muslims on Friday
Millions of Muslims across the world have begun observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Muslims are forbidden to eat, drink or smoke during daylight hours, with each day traditionally ended with feasts and visits to friends and family.

Ramadan began on Friday for the Middle Eastern and African states, as well as for Afghanistan and Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation.

India and Pakistan will begin Ramadan on Saturday.

In Israel, security has been tightened at the revered al-Aqsa Mosque compound as worshippers arrive for Friday prayers.

Israeli authorities said they would not restrict access to the compound, despite concerns earlier in the week that the crush of visitors - up to 200,000 - could cause part of the structure to collapse.

The mosque compound, which is called Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) by Muslims, shelters the Dome of the Rock (Omar Mosque) and the al-Aqsa Mosque.

Global observance

In Indonesia, locals prepared to close nightclubs, massage parlours and amusement centres for the entire period, despite some complaints about loss of business.

"We believe this is good for everyone," Jakarta legislator Slamet Nurdin told the Associated Press news agency.

"There is much support for this as most Muslims want to focus their minds on fasting."

In Afghanistan, vote-counting following the country's first presidential election has been suspended for a day to mark the beginning of the festival.

And in Pakistan it was hoped that the holy month would end recent violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims in which more than 70 people have died.

"We have asked all mosques to be careful in holding ceremonies to mark the festival," Abdul Rosao Aree, a Muslim leader in the country's Narathiwat province, told French news agency AFP.

In pictures: Ramadan worldwide
15 Oct 04  |  In Pictures



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