Mass prayer at Bangladesh Islamic peace gatheringBy AP News Jan 23, 2011 3:26PM UTC
TONGI, Bangladesh (AP) — Tens of thousands of Muslims seeking peace and the revival of Islam’s tenets joined a mass prayer Sunday to wrap up an annual three-day Islamic congregation outside the Bangladeshi capital.
It was not clear how many devotees joined the final prayer, but the organizers had earlier said the congregation was expected to attract more than 4 million people on the sandy bank of the River Turag.
Local police chief S.M. Mahfuzul Haque Nuruzzaman said the gathering was peaceful like previous years as thousands walked to the site overnight and in the morning to join the final prayer on the World Congregation of Muslims, or Biswa Ijtema.
The gathering, held each year since 1966, is among the world’s largest religious gatherings. It shuns politics.
Nuruzzman said some 12,000 foreigners from more than 95 countries joined the gathering.
Security was tight. More than 20,000 security officials patrolled the site, Nuruzzman said.
Live telecast by local stations showed the devotees raising their hands on boats and bridges at the scene.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and other leaders were stationed on the roof of a government building as they joined the prayer.
This year, another three-day gathering will begin at the same place on Jan. 28. Organizers said the second congregation was arranged to reduce overcrowding at the first event.