Nobel laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus, now on a visit to Saudi Arabia, has brushed aside allegations in Saudi media that a large number of Bangladeshis are breaking the law in the kingdom.
Any people can turn to crimes anywhere and so it is not fair to single out a certain nationality, he said during a reception hosted by Consulate General of Bangladesh at Al-Salam Holiday Inn in Jeddah Sunday evening, daily Saudi Gazette reported yesterday.
Dr Yunus' comments came following Saudi media reports that Bangladeshi workers are engaged in various criminal activities in the country for which Riyadh is reducing the quota for Bangladeshi workers there.
The Nobel laureate, who is visiting the Gulf country as a speaker at Ninth Jeddah Economic Forum now being held in Jeddah and plans to introduce Grameen Bank's signature microcredit concept in the country, urged the Bangladeshi expatriates to abide by Saudi rules and regulations.
"Saudi Arabia and Bangladesh have strong economic and cultural ties and Saudi Arabia has been a great friend of us in all circumstances," he said, noting that Bangladesh is a source of hard-working manpower for the kingdom.
Meanwhile, Dr Yunus' presence in the kingdom and his great speeches at Jeddah International Conference and Exhibition Centre received a big round of applause, making Bangladeshi expatriates proud.
Maintenance workers Mukhles Mian, Muhammad Munir and Jashimuddin said they were overwhelmed by the greatness of their countryman.
"Look, how all the Saudi men and women were clapping and listening to him with rapt attention. He is a great man. We are seeing him for the first time in flesh and blood," daily Arab News yesterday quoted one of them as saying.
The three men said Dr Yunus' presence in Saudi Arabia comes at the most critical time in the lives of the 17 lakh Bangladeshi expatriates in the kingdom.
"There are all these reports appearing in the local press about our iqamas (work permits) not being renewed and about recruitment of Bangladeshis being stopped and of our compatriots being in the news for all the wrong reasons," he said.
"There are websites that are running a campaign against us. Professor Yunus' presence here will go a long way in improving the image of Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia. All the top Saudi business leaders are here and after listening to Professor Yunus they will definitely have a soft corner for all of us. When they think of Bangladeshis, the Saudis will now definitely think of Professor Yunus."
For the three workmen, the presence of Dr Yunus was enough. "We don't know what he spoke about," said one of them. "We don't know English. We only saw the entire hall clapping intermittently and we saw that everybody stood at the end for quite a long time. Did you see anybody doing that when other speakers ended their speeches?"