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Indonesia's Muslims 'praying in wrong direction'

Indonesia's Muslims learned yesterday they have been praying in the wrong direction, after the country's highest Islamic authority said its directive on the direction of Mecca actually had people facing Africa.

Muslims are supposed to face the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia during prayer and the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued an edict in March stipulating westward was the correct direction from the world's most populous Muslim country.

“But it has been decided that actually the mosques are facing Somalia or Kenya, so we are now suggesting people shift the direction slightly to the north-west,” the head of the MUI, Cholil Ridwan, told reporters.

“There's no need to knock down mosques, just shift your direction slightly during prayer.”

Mr Ridwan said Muslims need not fear that their prayers had been wasted because they were facing the wrong way.

“Their prayers will still be heard by Allah,” he said.

Said Agil Siradj, head of Indonesia's largest Muslim organisation Nahdlatul Ulama, told the Jakarta Globe newspaper that the confusion showed the MUI issued edicts too fast and that this was a lesson for them.

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