Muslims pray for peace in Islamic congregation in Bangladesh

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Hundreds of thousands of Muslims raised their hands and prayed for the welfare of the world as they joined a final prayer Sunday in wrapping up a three-day Islamic congregation near Bangladesh’s capital.

The Biswa Ijtema, or World Congregation of Muslims, is one of the largest gatherings of Muslim devotees, held on the sandy banks of the River Turag at Tongi, just north of Dhaka.

The congregation, which is believed to have begun in 1949 as a gathering of Sunni Muslim preachers, draws hundreds of thousands from Bangladesh and abroad. The gathering is apolitical, and the sermons deal with an interpretation of Islam that advocates peace, harmony and brotherhood.

“Oh my Allah, please save Muslims, please pour your blessings, please end all bloodshed through your blessings,” cried an imam who led the final prayer. Many of the devotees burst into tears seeking blessings.

Security was tight, with agencies setting up watchtowers, control rooms and CCTVs. The second phase of the gathering begins on Friday.

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