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Islamic Meeting Ends in Bangladesh

January 22, 2002

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TONGI, Bangladesh (AP) _ Hands folded in prayer, millions of Muslims gathered Monday on the final day of one of the world’s largest Islamic conferences.

The prayer concluded the three-day Biswa Ijtema, or World Congregation of Islamic Preachers, along a river in Tongi, an industrial town near Dhaka.

The annual gathering, which attracted more than three million Islamic scholars, preachers and devotees from around the world, is dedicated to teaching the tenets of Islam and practicing peace and harmony. It shuns politics.

Sitting in cars or buses on jammed roads, on rooftops or courtyards of nearby houses and factories, in open fields and even in boats, the devotees listened to religious lectures and joined in the final prayer, conducted in Arabic by an Indian cleric.

The congregation Monday included Bangladesh President A.Q.M. Badruddoza Chowdhury, Prime Minister Khaleda Zia and opposition leader Shiekh Hasina.

The sermons did not mention Afghanistan or the global campaign against terrorism, which has evoked angry protests in several Muslim nations.

The gathering has been an annual event since 1966 along the bank of the Turag river, and is sponsored by Tablig Jamaat, an organization of Muslim preachers based in New Delhi, India.

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