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Over a thousand Muslims gathered in New York on Saturday night to mark the start of the fasting month of Ramadan by performing the Taraweeh prayers in iconic Times Square for the first time ever. The event was advertised across social media and around 1,500 meals were distributed for iftar to break the first fast of the month.

The organiser, a social media influencer known as SQ, told CBS that, “Islam is a religion of peace.” The intention, he added, was to explain the faith to all who don`t know what is it about.

“For Muslims, it’s not just about fasting so that we understand how those who are food insecure feel,” he pointed out. “We actually are doing this so that we can become closer and more aware of our Creator; our Lord; Allah.”

Event co-organiser Ali Camara added, “You work with these people [Muslims]. You take the train with these people. We really are all one.”

However, some Muslims expressed reservations about holding the prayers at the bustling thoroughfare, pointing to safety concerns and inappropriate advertising billboards.

“Taraweeh is supposed to be an intimate form of worship,” one New Yorker was quoted as saying by Middle East Eye. “I don’t understand why this has to be done in Times Square. Have you seen the billboards?

“I was down there yesterday with my in-laws. People are practically naked on the screens. Exactly what message are we sending to non-Muslims by praying under that?”

The Taraweeh prayers are recommended prayers after the Isha (night) prayers during Ramadan. In many mosques, the Qur’an is recited in its entirety over the month, usually by Imams who have memorised the Holy Book

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