The government has no knowledge on international media reports that Saudi Arabia has backtracked on providing $1 billion to build over 500 mosques in Bangladesh.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council on April 25 approved a project for construction of 560 model mosques and Islamic cultural centres in every district and upazila involving over Tk 9,062.41 crore.
“Of the total money the Saudi government will give Tk 8,169.79 crore, while Tk 892.62 crore will come from the government's exchequer and the project will be implemented from April 2017 to December 2019,” Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal had said at a post-meeting briefing.
“These modern mosques and cultural centres will have library and other facilities such as Quranic teaching, education of children, and training of Hajj passengers and Imams,” added the planning minister.
The planning minister's announcement of the Saudi commitment was widely reported in local and foreign media.
However, foreign media including Fox News Channel and The Washington Times published news last week that Saudi Arabia is pushing back against reports that it will fund a $1 billion project to build 560 mosques in Bangladesh.
Quoting Dr Awwad Alawwad, minister of culture and information of Saudi Arabia, the reports said Saudi Arabia had rejected claims by Bangladesh that it agreed to provide $1 billion to build over 500 mosques in Bangladesh, saying such a major commitment would require a formal bilateral agreement.
“This is simply not true,” said Dr Awwad. “Saudi Arabia has never committed such funding for the mosque-building project,” according to the Fox News Channel report.
“Any commitment by the Saudi government of this nature would only be considered after receiving an official request from the host country's government. When such an agreement is finalized there would definitely be an official announcement by both countries,” added Dr Awwad Alawwad.
Asked about the alleged denial by the Saudi government on providing financial assistance to Bangladesh for construction of mosques, Religious Affairs Minister Motiur Rahman told The Daily Star that his ministry had no knowledge about this. “The Sheikh Hasina's government is hopeful that the project would go ahead,” he said. He said the religious affairs ministry was preparing the project for construction of 560 mosques cum Islamic cultural centres with grants from Saudi Arabia.
Asked, Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Golam Mosih told The Daily Star on Monday that during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's last visit to Saudi Arabia, she had sought financial support for the construction of the mosques.
“...the Saudi King assured our honourable prime minister that he will look into the matter,” he added.