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Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Latest News
UPDATED: July 10, 2009
Xinjiang Muslims Gear up for Friday Prayer

Some mosques in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi were closed Friday and Muslims were persuaded to perform their weekly congregational prayer at home following Sunday's deadly riot that killed at least 156 people.

All five major mosques near the Southern Jiefang Road, center of the Sunday violence, were closed Friday morning.

Outside the Baida Mosque, on No. 441 Southern Jiefang Road, an imam explained that the place had been closed "for safety considerations" and advised people to perform the ritual at home instead.

Some smaller mosques, however, remained open Friday morning and were seemingly prepared for the Friday prayer, known as Jumu'ah, the most important prayer for the Muslims.

"Mosques in some sensitive areas were closed at their immas' suggestion," said an official in charge of religious affairs with the Xinjiang regional government. "Muslims normally perform rituals at home in time of plague or social unrest."

It is not immediately known how many mosque would remain open for the Friday prayer, the official said. "Not until the ritual ends at around 3 p.m.," he said on condition of anonymity.

But the official said mosques in other prefectures would all be open.

A government spokesman in Kashgar confirmed China's largest mosque, the Id Kah Mosque in Kashgar City, would remain open for the Jumu'ah Friday afternoon.

He said the ritual is normally attended by more than 1,000 people.

Major streets in Urumqi seemed peaceful Friday. Security remained tightened with a heavy police presence. More pedestrians and vehicles were seen on the roads compared with the previous four days but peddlers still had not come back. Most roadside stores also remained closed.

Kashgar, a cultural center of the Uygur people, also appeared peaceful with police presence and traffic control measures to divert vehicles and crowds from the central square.

(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2009)

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