10/13/2008, 00.00
NEPAL
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Nepalese Muslims "happy" to celebrate feast together with Hindus

by Kalpit Parajuli
The festival of Dashain, one of the most important moments for Hindu tradition, has become an occasion of "social harmony" and interreligious dialogue. Positive assessments from Hindu and Muslim leaders, who promote the "sharing of moments of celebration."

Nepalgunj (AsiaNews) - In the spirit of "communal harmony" and interreligious dialogue, hundreds of Muslims have joined Hindu believers to celebrate the feast of Dashain. The feast is underway now in Nepal, and is one of the most important observances for local Hindu tradition, connected to the worship of the goddess Durga. In Nepalgunj, a town in the western part of the country, the occasion has special significance thanks to the presence of Muslim leaders and faithful who have exchanged gifts, embraces, and good wishes with the Hindus.

The event has gained wide media coverage, and has been pointed to as an example of the possibility of "harmonic and peaceful" coexistence among faithful of different religions. "We are in minority in Nepal," says 18-year-old Sabnam Halwai, a Muslim young woman, "So any kind of persecution just as we are in minority is our problem. Therefore, if we celebrate each others` festival then we will have not only good communal harmony but also the persecution will be reduced." Ali Miya, a local Islamic leader, emphasizes that "although we have faith in different gods, festivals are meant to have happy time with good communal harmony. Just as Hindu people and their leaders participated in our Eid celebration, we are also celebrating the Hindu festival called Dashain."

Appreciation for the presence of Muslim faithful has been expressed by Indian leaders, as highlighted by Damodar Gautam, president of the Nepalese section of the World Hindu Federation: "We are never against communal harmony. If celebration of festival together with other religious people prevails in communal harmony, then we are ready to celebrate Isamic or Christian or any other religious festival."

This sentiment is echoed by the president of the Nepalese Muslim Federation, Nazrul Hasan, who says that he is "happy" at the sharing of the feast, and reveals that he has received "a special blessing from Hindu leaders," just as he had done previously on the occasion of the celebration of the Eid, the feast that concludes the sacred month of Ramadan.

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