Muslims gather to pray in NY’s Times Square as Ramadan begins

Muslims gather to pray in NY’s Times Square as Ramadan begins

NEW YORK (AFP) : Dozens of Muslim worshippers gathered in New York’s Times Square Sunday to mark the start of the holy month of Ramadan, with some displaying Palestinian flags in solidarity with people in Gaza.

They performed Taraweeh, special Ramadan night prayers, against the backdrop of the bright LED advertising billboards that illuminate the Manhattan landmark.

“It’s good to come here as Muslims. I saw Muslims from everywhere — I was surprised, it’s my first time here. I wanted to come and see the community,” said one of the worshippers, Salman al-Hanafy, 20, a forklift operator from Cairo who wore a pristine white thobe.

More than 100 faithful gathered for the prayer meeting despite cold, windy conditions, with a vocalist chanting Nasheeds, and children reciting from the Koran, copies of which were offered to both Muslims and curious passersby.

“A lot of people are interested in the Koran, we have almost run out of French ones. It explains the importance of fasting during Ramadan,” said Ahmad Yasar, 20, an IT student in New York as a mound of donuts were delivered to him and his team handing out the holy books.

Observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk during Ramadan and gather with family and friends to break the fast in the evening.

It is also a month of prayers during which Muslims traditionally converge in large numbers at mosques, especially at night.

Organizers projected prayers from the Koran onto a white sheet that was buffeted by the wind as giant ads for Broadway musicals and candy glowed overhead.

Yasar said that communal prayer meetings were important to “raise awareness and show people what’s going around the world” — including in Gaza.

Nearby a speaker had the red, white, green and black colors of the Palestinian flag emblazoned on his hat, while a young boy in an electric wheelchair flew the banner.

New York has been the venue for dozens of protests, some pro-Palestinian and others pro-Israeli, since the October 7 attacks on Israel by the Hamas militant group that triggered the war.

Hamas’ attacks on southern Israel resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory military campaign has killed at least 31,045 people in Gaza, the majority women and children, according to the territory’s health ministry.