The government will build 560 model mosques across the country to preach “accurate and correct” Islam and to counter the religious misconceptions which cause militancy and extremism.
The government took the initiative during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s June 2016 visit to Saudi Arabia, when King Salman promised to fund the vast majority of the Tk8,722 crore project.
Since the Saudi government is yet to send the funds, however, Hasina’s government will now undertake the project with funding from local sources.
Based on examples only seen in the kingdom, Qatar, and Malaysia, the model mosques will have special features including research facilities, seminar rooms, and libraries to provide religious education and “spiritual revival”.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of the project at her Gonobhaban residence on April 5, when Religious Affairs Minister Principal Matiur Rahman and Secretary Anisur Rahman also present.
“Islam is the religion of peace,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said. “Our aim is to spread the true light of Islam. We are going to build model mosques where Muslims can exercise the real culture of Islam.”
The prime minister said her government was committed to stopping violence in the name of Islam. “Islam never supports militancy, and such actions in the name of Islam are affronts to the religion,” she said.
The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Islamic Foundation prepared the model mosque project details and received the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on April 25, 2017.
“We will implement the project using government and local funding,” Religious Affairs Ministry Secretary for the project, Anisur Rahman, said.
Islamic Foundation Chief Shamim Mohammad Afjal told the Dhaka Tribune that funding from Saudi Arabia would be received “eventually,” although he could not be specific on the amount.
“It is a government project, so the government will be the primary financer,” he said. “That being said, anyone can donate into the model mosques project to uphold the religious spirit.”
The government is initially building nine model mosques at a cost of Tk90 crore in Chittagong, Jhalkathi, Khulna, Bogura, Sylhet, Mymensingh, Rangpur, Noakhali, and Gopalganj.
The total cost of all 560 mosques is Tk8,722 crore, of which the Saudi Arabian government committed to funding Tk8,170 crore.
Despite the process having been delayed due to the slow progress of land requisition, project officials said a tender for the building works will be floated “within a very short time.”
The tender is to be floated separately for each mosque and the allocation will not be similar, according to the plan.
Project officials said the Ministry of Religious Affairs has already formed 15 sub-committees to complete the project within the timeframe.
“The project has the priority of the prime minister’s office,” Religious Affairs Secretary Anisur Rahman told the Dhaka Tribune. “Initially, we will start construction work on nine mosques and gradually complete all 560.”
According to the plan, men and women will be allowed in the mosques to pray separately. In addition, the local community will be able to use the cultural centres for religious learning.
All the mosques are to follow the same model and will be built on 40 decimals of land. At city corporation and district levels, the model mosques will have escalators and air conditioning.