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Bishwa Ijtema Kicks off in Bangladesh

DHAKA – Hundreds of thousands of Muslim devotees gathered on the banks of the Turag River outside the Bangladeshi capital on Friday to call for peace and a revival of Islamic tenets in Bishwa Ijtema, the world’s second largest congregation after hajj.

Ijtema will begin with sermons by noted scholars after the Fajr prayers on Friday, Express Tribune reported.

The gathering saw the flocking of hundreds of thousands of Muslims on the Turag bank to take part in the 72-hour religious event since Thursday.

Ijtema is being held in two phases from 2012 to ease the accommodation problem.

The second phase of the Bishwa Ijtema will be held on the same venue as in 2012 from January 19 to January 21.

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Organizing the meeting, Bangladesh enforced tight security measures, deploying thousands of members of different law-enforcement agencies.

Volunteers were also working around the clock to make sure the event runs smoothly in health centers.

Bangladesh’s Bishwa Ijtema, or World Muslim Congregation, is the world’s second-largest Islamic gathering after the Hajj with devotees coming from all over the globe to pray and hear imams preach for three days.

The three-day gathering is organized annually by Tablig-e-Jamaat, a Bangladeshi non-political Islamic group that urges people to follow the tenets of Islam in their daily lives.

The gathering at Tongi was first held in 1964 at Dhaka’s Kakrail mosque.

Then, in 1948 it took place at Haji Camp in Chittagong and in 1958, in Narayanganj’s Shiddhirganj.

Witnessing increasing appeal over the years among those who cannot afford to go to Makkah for the hajj, the Bishwa Ijtema moved in 1966 to be held on the bank of Turag in Tongi from then on.