A COLOURFUL, vibrant parade made its way through High Wycombe this morning to mark one of the most important dates in the Islamic calendar.
The Muslim population of High Wycombe united as thousands joined the procession to mark the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.
Organisers said it was probably the biggest turnout in the event’s 26-year history, with an estimated 2000-plus joining in the parade through the town.
A sea of people with brightly coloured banners and flags set off from Jubilee Road mosque at 11.45am and made their way along Desborough Road to the town centre.
Zafar Iqbal, chairman of the Wycombe Islamic Mission, said: “It’s a lovely sunny day, we really have the blessing of God today.
"It’s a big turnout, more than 2000 people, it’s a very long procession and we’re here to celebrate the birthday of the holy prophet, peace be upon him.
"This is now the 26th year and I think today is the biggest one yet. It’s a very peaceful display. We don’t want to hurt anybody or disturb the community in any way.
"This is one of the top days in the Islamic calendar. It’s great to see a lot of young people here, and we keep getting told young people are not associating themselves with the mosque which is not true."
The celebration, known as Eid-Milad-Un-Nabi, commemorates the birth of the one of Islam's central figures, Muhammad, who Muslims believe was the last prophet to be sent to Earth by Allah.
Similar scenes could be witnessed throughout the UK, with Muslims using the important date to spread a message of peace.
The crowd, accompanied by a 4x4 truck blasting out music to fascinated onlookers, arrived at the Guild Hall at 12.30, where there was a pause in proceedings.
Imam Sultan Mahmood from Totteridge Road mosque addressed the gathered revellers, insisting the Islamic message was one based on respect and peace, and he stressed the importance of collaboration as part of one wider community.
The Reverend Jackie Lock also attended the ceremony representing All Saints Church, and was invited to speak.
She said: “Thank you for inviting me here today. It is a very great privilege to bring you greetings from the community as part of the church.”
Wycombe District Council chairman Ian McKennis also took to the microphone, welcoming Muslims on their special day and saying it is another example of the good community spirit in the town.
Rolling road closures were put in place as the procession made its way through town, and eventually past Wycombe Hospital before weaving back towards the Jubilee Road mosque to continue the celebrations.
Mr Iqbal stressed the parade is not about highlighting differences, but celebrating tolerance and harmony in the High Wycombe community, which he said is reflected in the presence of church leaders.
He said: “I think it’s very important to have a representative from the church. We want to show that there’s a lot of common ground between the Christian community and the Muslim community and we want to celebrate that.
“Living in this community together, we want to show out togetherness and we want to show we are part of this community and working together for peace, harmony and the betterment of the community.
“Our message to people is that Islam is a loving and peaceful religion.”