Muslims mark the birth of Prophet Mohammad

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Yemeni Shi'ites known as “Houthis” celebrate the prophet Mohammad's birthday, with thousands expected to attend the celebrations. In Libya, large crowds gather in Martyr's Square to mark the occasion.

Hundreds of Houthis gathered in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, on Thursday (January 24) to commemorate the birth of Prophet Mohammad.

Waving flags and singing songs, those attending the celebrations are Houthi Shi'ites.

The Houthis, like most tribesmen in Yemen's northern highlands, belong to the Zaidi sect of Shi'ite Islam, whose Hashemite line ruled for 1,000 years before the 1962 revolution.

Zaidis, who make up about a third of Yemen's 23 million people, have coexisted easily with majority Sunnis in the past, but Badr al-Din al-Houthi, a cleric from the northern province of Saada, promoted Zaidi revivalism in the 1970s, playing on fears that Saudi-influenced Salafis threatened Zaidi identity.

Those attending the celebrations spoke of its importance.

''The Zaidi sect was subjected to a lot of harassment and it was prohibited from holding its events or practicing its rituals. Even its mosques have been isolated. Now, thank God, after the blessed revolution, there is no more oppression or targeting based on the religious or political backgrounds,” said Mohamed Moftah.

“This (rally) is a message to the people inside the country and those abroad, that every ideology should be given their rights of expression, affiliation and belief. No belief or culture should be imposed on people, because it won't work, it won't pass and people won't accept it,” added Ismail Al-Wazir.

In Libya, Muslims also took to the streets in Tripoli singing remembrance songs and beating drums to celebrate the prophet's birthday.

For those attending the celebrations, they also extended their prayers to the people in Syria,

''This is a convoy of those celebrating the birth of the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, who God graced us with. And we ask God the most generous, during these days, to bestow upon victory and success on our brothers in the Levant,'' said Libyan Mohammad Al Drousi.

''All the people are happy, and they're in the streets celebrating the birth of the prophet. But every day they celebrate the birth of the prophet, not just today, specifically, every day we celebrate the prophet's birth,'' added another Libyan man.

Muslims believe Prophet Mohammad was the last messenger of God, and that the Koran was revealed to him.

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