A joyous atmosphere has engulfed the Barham Green mosque in Zimbabwe's second largest city of Bulawayo as the Muslim community celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the three-day feast that follows the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Muslim worshippers thronged the mosque, in the north of the city center, from the early hours on Friday to celebrate the start of the Islamic religious feast.
Abdi Mahamoud, a Muslim resident of Bulawayo, said the festival crowns a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.
"Ramadan is a month of fasting and a time of reflection, forgiveness and charity. This time is one of the pillars of our religion. If I can put it in simpler terms I can describe it as our Christmas," Mahamoud told Anadolu Agency.
He said that Eid al-Fitr shows unity of Muslim communities around the world, who perform special prayers to mark the occasion either in the open space or mosques.
Mohamoud said that Muslims in Bulawayo have built more than five mosques in the last few years and this is a sign that the religion is growing in the city.
The Muslim worshipper stressed that his religion was a religion of peace.
"This religion teaches respect and this is emphasised by Allah's final messenger Muhammad to Earth. However the international media has portrayed our religion as associating with evil and terrorism,” he said.
Brighton Ngwezi, 20, who embraced Islam two years ago, has recalled his first moments with the Islamic religion.
"It was difficult to come out to the open with my friends because they had a negative perception about Muslims. It took them time to accept me and respect my religion," he told AA.
Ngwezi says he embraced Islam after discussions with his father about the Islamic teachings.
"The teachings of the Quran are very supportive and they instil a lot of discipline in an individual,” said Ngwezi.
“Now I can freely wear my robes and go to the mosque. In my first days it was not something I could do," he added.
Like many Muslims in Zimbabwe, Ngwezi believes that his religion is flourishing in the African country.
"The only hindering factor is that the Quran needs someone who is keen on learning the teachings but it is unfortunate that the youths of today hate learning,” said Ngwezi.
He lamented that Eid is not an official holiday in Zimbabwe, unlike other countries where Islam is more pronounced.
"Here it is difficult because one needs to balance it with work," said Ngwezi.
Zimbabwe, a predominantly Christian country, has a population of about 13 million people.
Muslims are estimated to make up about 1% of the population.
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Organizers said nearly 10,000 people had attended the opening and hoped that more will come before the spiritual event wraps up on Monday afternoon.
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