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Egyptians Celebrate Prophet Muhammad's Birthday


In a weekend-long celebration, Egyptians acknowledge the Prophet Muhammad's birthday late Thursday with prayer and gatherings in celebrations similar to those taking place in other parts of the Muslim world. Aya Batrawy has more from our Middle East bureau in Cairo.

As the Muslim world marks the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, known as Muwld el Nabi, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden released a videotape reigniting a two-year-old controversy over Danish cartoons deemed by Muslims to be insulting.

Myriam Abdel Aziz, said she herself has never seen the cartoons. She believes that the republishing of the cartoons recently and the ongoing controversy has been overblown on both sides.

"I feel it's totally understandable that people get upset because you portray a prophet while this is not supposed to be in Islam," she said. "But I also totally understand that people in other cultures consider that you're free to express yourself the way you want. I just think that it's an old story and it's not a good idea that a few years later people keep on asking people about something that happened a long time ago. It just raises bad emotions around it and we need to have people calm down."

Ahmad, one of the thousands who were out in the streets celebrating, explains how revered the Prophet Muhammad is to Muslims.

"This is a very happy day," he said. " Egypt and the whole world are celebrating this day. Especially the Egyptian people, they are known for their love of Islam and all religions too."

One man explained the importance of remembering the Prophet on this day.

"The Prophet is our ideal example. We are following his ways and how he lived his life," he said.

Ironically, many people in Egypt's Old Cairo neighborhood had no knowledge of the cartoons or Osama bin Laden's latest video. Here, the crowd seems far from the protests that took place across the Muslim world two years ago, where the cartoons sparked mass riots when they were first published. The street are filled with just singing and celebrations, for the weekend at least.

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