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20,000 gather in Anaheim to mark the end of Ramadan

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Area Muslims mark Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

In the early morning heat, nearly 20,000 Muslims from across Southern California streamed through the Anaheim Convention Center on Friday to celebrate the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar -- Eid al-Fitr.

Mimi Ahmed arrived before dawn with relatives from Texas who’d never seen a Ramadan event the size of the one in Orange County.

“I think everyone should follow their hearts and this what I choose - to be Muslim and to celebrate our humanity - especially in this season,” the Los Angeles resident said.

Ali Shaikh, Ahmed’s cousin from Houston, said she used some of her summer vacation to attend the ceremony that marks the end of Ramadan.

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“We’re from a big state. But today, we see a big, generous spirit, all who believe in the importance of this day,” Shaikh said.

Both women said they paid close attention to a sermon with a message of gratitude, led by Muzammil Siddiqi, who heads the Islamic Society of Orange County, one of the groups that staged Friday’s event.

Following the shootings in Tennessee, Shaikh said she urged her family to think deeply about what causes violence “so we might arrive at a better understanding and make more friends, not enemies.”

Vince Ping, a tourist from Indonesia, strolled the center with friends, marveling at the rhythm of the crowd.

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“I am not Muslim but I’m here to learn about Muslims,” said his friend Hal Larson, a marketing specialist from Fullerton. “I am open to anyone who’s willing to lend a hand and who can forgive.”

To Ping, that power of forgiveness is a way of guiding daily living.

“Whatever happens, we practice to move on and our Allah is there for us.”

Twitter: @newsterrier

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