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Muslims join together for annual festival

Muslims join together for annual festival



By Mu Qian (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-10 07:54

GUANGZHOU -- Festivity was in the air as more than 10,000 Chinese and foreign Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha or the Qurban Festival at four mosques in Guangzhou Tuesday.

The Huaisheng Mosque and the Abu Waggas Tomb had to hold prayers twice on Tuesday in order to accommodate the number of worshippers.

Among them were many African Muslims celebrating the festival with their brothers and sisters from China and other parts of the world.

"This is my third Eid al-Adha in China. The festival here is just like that in my country, though I was only able to understand a small part of the imam's exhortations in Chinese," Sissoko Adama, a businessman from Mali, said.

Sissoko said he came to Guangzhou because of the good environment for international trade. Like many other Africans in the city, he exports clothes, shoes and other commodities to Africa.

"Though we are going through a financial crisis, I thank God my business is still doing well," he said.

Guinean Conde Bangaly, 39, also has a company in Guangzhou. A devoted Muslim, he prays at the city's mosques almost every day, and Tuesday offered a sacrifice to celebrate Eid al-Adha, which means Festival of Sacrifice.

"I killed a sheep as a sacrifice to Allah. I do it every year, whether in Africa or China," Conde said. He has been living in Guangzhou for the past five years.

Since 2000, there has been a surge in the Muslim population in Guangzhou, most are engaged in trade or in the halal food business.

The Guangzhou Islamic Association estimates the number of Muslims living in Guangzhou to be between 50,000 and 60,000, though the actual number may be higher. About half of the Muslim population comprises foreigners, with Africans being the largest group.

The Xiaodongying Mosque, near Huanshi Middle Road where the offices and apartments of most Africans are located, has become a mosque dominated by them.

Bai Lin, an imam at the mosque, said Africans account for about 70 percent of the worshippers.

As the mosque is small, many have to pray on the sidewalks outside, he said.

"The African Muslims in Guangzhou usually come from western African countries such as Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and Niger. Most of them are very devout and humble," Bai said.

Although language and religious differences make it difficult for most African Muslims to integrate into Chinese society, some of them are succeeding.

Conde for example, has married a Chinese woman Wei Qiuhua, and is planning to buy an apartment in Guangzhou.

The couple met two years ago in Guangzhou. Wei said at first her parents were against their marriage, but they later relented.

"I have converted to Islam because I love Conde," the 24-year-old said.

She has taken the Muslim name of Jamila.

The wedding will be held today in Wei's hometown of Shanwei in southeast Guangdong.

"Many of my relatives want to toast our marriage with a sip of wine, but I have told them it will be a wedding banquet without alcohol because we are Muslims," Wei said.

They will hold another wedding ceremony in Guangzhou, where Conde will invite his African and Chinese friends. They are also planning to hold a ceremony in Guinea when they visit his parents next year.

"I don't know whether we will live in China for the rest of our lives. Everything is decided by God," Conde said.

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