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Thousands gather for Eid al-Fitr in London, Ont.

Thousands of Muslim Londoners gathered at the BMO Centre in Old East Village Wednesday to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Ben Harrietha/980 CFPL

Thousands of Muslim Londoners gathered at the BMO Centre in Old East Village Wednesday to celebrate Eid al-Fitr and mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Both London police and CN Rail police helped manage the traffic and large crowds in and around the Western Fair District.

Morning prayers were followed by a festival with food, children’s entertainment, and a bazaar.

Andrew Rahous, taking part in the festivities with family and friends, says the holiday is a great way to see extended family.

“It’s the culmination of the month of Ramadan, 30 days of fasting can be quite tough, but everybody gets together and celebrates the end of the month,” Rahous said. “My wife’s extended family is very large, so we’ll be just going house to house for the next three days.”

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Another attendee, teen Mohammed Razk, says he’ll be spending more time with his family.

“I would like to hang out with them more often because I barely get to see them, we’re going to go out and eat a special dinner and have some fun,” Razk said.

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Razk encourages non-Muslims to take part in the holiday, saying it’s a non secular one.

“We treat everyone the same, like brothers to us. So, I see a Christian for example, I’ll bring him in and include him, so he’s like part of our family. Eid’s for everyone to enjoy.”

However, this year’s Eid celebrations had a sombre tone to them, with the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza looming over festivities.

“You see the people suffering over there and it honestly breaks my heart, I don’t really feel like celebrating when I start thinking about…what they’re going through” Rahous said. “I think it’s important to come together to remember them, make prayers for them and do what you can for them.”

Razk, who has family in Gaza, says it’s tough to celebrate Eid knowing Muslims in Gaza don’t have the opportunity to.

“When people want to celebrate Eid, they just sit together, but they don’t have food or water,” Razk said. “For both Eid and Ramadan, it’s so hard for them because they’re barely surviving.”

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Razk says he plans on fasting a few extra days after the end of Ramadan in order to get a better understanding of how people in the Gaza strip feel.

This year, Ramadan took place from March 10 to April 9. Eid al-Fitr runs for the three days after Ramadan, from April 10 to April 12.

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