Muslims mark Eid with prayers, calls to liberate Jerusalem

CAIRO, Egypt, AP

The violence in the Palestinian territories overshadowed Muslim celebrations of the end of the holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday, with religious leaders urging the faithful to liberate Jerusalem from the Jews.

As Muslims worldwide celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of Islam’s holiest month, clerics also urged worshippers to divert zakat, or alms, to the Palestinians.

In Mecca, Saudi Arabia, the imam of Masjid Al Haram, Islam’s holiest site, said “the tragic events” in the Palestinian territories are a “source of sorrow to every Arab, Muslim and fair-minded person in the world.”

“The Jewish invaders have violated the forbidden, desecrated the sacred and usurped our land in Palestine while the whole world has stood idle,” Sheik Mohammed Bin Abdellah Al-Sabeel said in a sermon following the Eid prayers. His words were broadcast live across the region on state owned Saudi satellite television.

Muslims believe the Quran, their holy book, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad over Ramadan 14 centuries ago. They mark the holy month with day-long fasts and celebrate its end with feasting.

In Iraq, Baghdad’s streets were quiet on the first day of Eid, when many Iraqis traditionally visit cemeteries to pray, drink tea and eat snacks — keeping their dead beloved company on the holiday.

War and sanctions have ravaged Iraq’s economy.

“To hell with sanctions! People do not give money to beggars any more because they do not have it to start with,” a beggar who refused to give his name said as he tried unsuccessfully to collect alms near a Baghdad graveyard.

Muslims in many countries ended this Ramadan with few festivities. Palestinian families all over the West Bank and Gaza were mourning their dead. Nearly 350 people have been killed in the three months of fighting in Israel and the Palestinian territories, almost all of them Palestinian.

In Cairo, imams who led millions of worshippers in mosques and city squares urged followers to give the traditional Eid alms to Palestinians who have lost relatives in the uprising. After prayers, some activists sold pictures of Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem to raise funds for the Palestinians.

Iran’s spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, blasted Israel and promised to support the Palestinian uprising. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who performed early-morning prayers in a Gaza mosque, told reporters that “This holiday is decisive.

“With God’s help, it will lead to a Palestinian boy or a Palestinian girl raising the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem.”

Elsewhere, other pressing secular concerns intruded on the sacred.