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World's Muslims enjoy day of peace as Eid starts

CAIRO — Far from the din and controversy roiling interfaith relations in the West, Muslims worldwide thronged mosques, cafes and parks Friday in a solemn and joyful end to the fasting month of Ramadan.

Authorities increased security in some countries due to fears that violence could intrude on the celebrations, but for most Muslims it was a day of peace, family — and most important — food.

Friends and relatives feasted on spicy lamb, kebabs and saffron rice, while smokers happily puffed on cigarettes in broad daylight as the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival got under way across the Muslim world.

During Ramadan, the faithful are supposed to abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex in a dawn-to-dusk period of self-sacrifice to commemorate the revelation of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad.

"It's nice to be eating, drinking and smoking during the daytime," said Jordanian banker Mutaz Kurdi, 37, as he walked his two children in an Amman park. "Fasting was difficult this year because of the summer heat."

Business was brisk for ice cream vendors in Baghdad, where children decked out in holiday finery rode Ferris wheels at amusement parks and raced horse-drawn carts on traffic-free streets. Some boys battled each other with plastic guns, ignoring a ban on toy weapons imposed so children would not be mistaken for militants.

War-weary Afghans marked the holiday with prayers for peace in mosques as well as family gatherings in homes. President Hamid Karzai urged the Taliban to lay down their arms and join peace talks — a theme often repeated in presidential speeches but so far unheeded by significant numbers of Taliban.

In suburban Chicago, where thousands of Muslims gathered for prayers at a stadium in Bridgeview, Ill., Scott Alexander wore a pin on his jacket that read: "I (Heart) Muslims and Their Mosques."

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