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Malaysian Muslims seek divine intervention to end haze crisis

  • Pedestrians and a cyclist wearing face masks to protect themselves against air pollution in Palembang in Indonesia's South Sumatra province. Photo courtesy: AFP

Kuala Lumpur (AFP) -- Muslims throughout Malaysia on Thursday were urged to seek divine intervention to help clear smoke from Indonesian forest and agriculture fires that has choked Southeast Asia for weeks.

Religious authorities called on Muslims to hold special sessions to appeal to the almighty, following the usual Friday afternoon prayers.

"Our country is facing a continuing haze phenomena. It has created fear and concern among the people due to its health impact," Othman Mustapha, head of the Department of Islamic Development, a government agency, said in a Facebook posting.

"The aim is to pray that the haze that we are facing will end quickly."

Similar prayers were held during a previous outbreak of the annual haze problem.

Smoke from illegal slash-and-burn farming in Indonesia has plagued Singapore and Malaysia for weeks, causing school closures, the cancellation of flights and sports events, and widespread respiratory problems.

The blazes are an annual occurrence during the dry season. But scientists have warned this year's haze is on track to become the worst ever due to tinder-dry conditions from the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Indonesia agreed Thursday to accept international help to combat the blazes, in an about-face after weeks of failed attempts to douse the fires, which have infuriated its neighbours.

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