Thu, Jan 12, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha

FORGOING SLAUGHTERSome worshippers chose to make donations rather than kill animals to mark a prophet's willingness to take his son's life for God


Muslims across Asia celebrate the Eid al-Adha festival this week, with some in Pakistan saying they would forgo traditional animal sacrifices to help survivors of last year's earthquake.

Starting in conservative Afghanistan on Tuesday, people in teeming towns and remote mountain villages slaughtered millions of animals including cows, goats, camels and sheep after morning prayers.

Eid al-Adha commemorates the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son on God's orders -- he was later told to spare the boy and kill a ram -- and begins during the hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

Security was high in the capital Kabul due to the ongoing insurgency by remnants of the ousted fundamentalist Taliban regime, but thousands of people turned out in the cold at the city's Eidgha Mosque.

Eid celebrations were more muted in Pakistan, which is still recovering from the devastating Oct. 8 earthquake that killed more than 73,000 people and left 3.5 million homeless.

"I will not sacrifice an animal this year as I donated some money to Hizb ut-Tahrir," said Ghulam Muhammad, a businessman in Peshawar, adding that the banned Islamic radical group planned to arrange 1,000 animal sacrifices for the quake victims.

The holiday started on Tuesday in Peshawar and the Northwest Frontier Province but yesterday across the rest of Pakistan.

Housewife Gul Jafri, who returned from Singapore to her native Karachi for Eid, said that instead of slaughtering an animal, she had given money to a charity hospital whose doctors are treating kidney patients in Kashmir.

In Muzaffarabad, the quake-shattered capital of Pakistani Kashmir, few people were buying sheep or cows to sacrifice, local residents said.

Many charity organizations and hardline Islamic groups had set up camps in the city to slaughter animals and distribute meat, boosted by donations from the public, witnesses said.

Across the Line of Control in Indian-administered Kashmir, where around 1,400 people died in the earthquake, residents braved fears of Muslim rebel attacks and icy temperatures to stock up for Wednesday's Eid.

"Cold or violence can't stop us from buying meat, chicken and pastry for our families," said 63-year-old Ghulam Rasool in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir.

Extra police were deployed in the center of the city of 1 million, the urban hub of rebels fighting Indian rule since 1989.

In Bangladesh, millions of Muslims raised their hands towards Mecca during mass prayers in the capital Dhaka and in towns.

Prime Minister Khaled Zia used her Eid message to call on Bangladeshis to work together to eradicate the extreme poverty that afflicts the country's "toiling masses."

Since Monday, about 4 million people have left Dhaka for their home villages.

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