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Leaders mark Eid al Fitr with calls for peace - and warnings

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Muslims the world over continued celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr Monday, marking the end of the Ramadan period of fasting and abstinence. The faithful began the holiday on Saturday, Sunday or Monday, depending on their sect.

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, cigarettes, and sex from sunrise to sunset.

Some national leaders used the holiday to issue political messages, with some calling for peace and others denouncing opponents. In some communities this year's festivities were marred by fears of swine flu or political unrest or violence.

In Egypt, where 900 cases of swine flu have been reported, two of them fatal, some expressed concern that the disease could spread too easily during mass prayers to mark Eid. According to the Egyptian Gazette, the country's leading Muslim cleric issued a fatwa, or religious edict, saying Eid prayers could be cancelled as as result.

That came after a separate fatwa last week saying the annual Hajj pilgrimage could be cancelled for the same reason.

Muslim scholars and clerics have admonished people against performing the Eid prayers in big, crowded mosques and have asked them, instead, to head to open-air praying places or to pray at home.
If there is talk about cancelling the Hajj, which is an obligatory part of Islam, then we ought to cancel the Eid prayers, as they're not obligatory, if the situation really demands it,” Souad Saleh, the head of Islamic Jurisprudence Department at Al-Azhar University, told The Gazette in a phone interview.

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