Second largest Islamic meet begins in Bangladesh | india | Hindustan Times
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Second largest Islamic meet begins in Bangladesh

india Updated: Feb 02, 2007 13:02 IST
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Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims assembled on Friday on a sandy river bank near Bangladesh's capital for one of the world's largest Islamic gatherings.

Many of the devotees walked for kilometres, while others rode buses and boats to the banks of the River Turag in Tongi, an industrial town just north of Dhaka.

The three-day assembly, known as Bishwa Ijtema or World Congregation of Muslims, formally opens on Friday. It will culminate in a mass prayer on Sunday which organisers expect about three million devotees to join.

"Islam is a religion of peace and humanity. It shuns conflict and militancy. I've come here to learn more about this spirit of Islam," said Mohammad Shafique, a 50-year-old farmer from the northern district of Rangpur.

The Ijtema has been held annually since 1966 on the banks of the river, 20 kilometres north of downtown Dhaka.

The gathering shuns politics and focuses on reviving the tenets of Islam and promoting peace and harmony.

Participants discuss the Quran, Islam's holy book, pray, and listen to sermons by Islamic scholars from around the world.

Last year, more than 2.5 million people joined the mass prayer.

Bangladesh President Iajuddin Ahmed and two former prime ministers - Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina - are expected to attend on Sunday.

Volunteers have set up tents and troops installed seven temporary bridges over the river. Security officials watched entry points from watchtowers and used metal detectors to search for weapons.