Hasina inaugurates 50 model mosques to fight Islamic radicalism
by Sumon Corraya

In a virtual ceremony, the prime minister officially inaugurated new mosques to mark the centenary of the birth of the nation's Founding Father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. However, this is proving controversial on social media. Catholic prelate wonders if minorities will “have their own model places of prayer”.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated 50 model mosques built to mark the Year of Mujib, the centenary of the birth of the nation's Founding Father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

During the virtual ceremony held yesterday at her official residence, Gana Bhaban, the prime minister said that these model mosques will help defeat Islamist militancy.

This is part of a government programme to build 560 mosques and centres of excellence aimed at encouraging Islamic brotherhood, true values and the true religious practice of Islam. The new places of prayer will be open to men and women, and increase awareness in public opinion about the need to fight social ills.

“Awareness has to be built in society against drugs, women repression, child repression and sexual abuse like the measures taken against terrorism,” said Prime Minister Hasina. “We wanted to establish these mosques in such ways to provide all types of education, create awareness and increase knowledge about Islam.”

Later, the prime minister linked up virtually with newly Khulna District model mosque, the Badarganj Upazila model mosque in Rangpur District, and the South Surma model mosque in Sylhet District and exchanged views with local believers.

Ms Hasina used the occasion to speak out again against terrorism. “How can anyone think that killing can lead to heaven? These people harm Islam, which is a religion of peace.”

The inauguration of model mosques is, however, a hot topic on social media. Zayadul Ahsan Pintu, a well-known Muslim journalist, wrote that the government “should also build places of prayer for Hindus, Christians and Buddhists.”

For his part, Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahj,  vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh, said that “the government also represents religious minorities. When will they have their own model places of prayer?”

Bangladesh is an Islamic-majority country. About 90 per cent of the population is Muslim; the rest are Hindus, Buddhists and Christians.

On 1 July 2016, five extremist militants stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka, taking hostages and killing 29 people, including nine Italians.

Only the hostages who could recite the Qur'an had their lives spared. After this massacre, the government began to crack down hard on Islamist militants.