Bangladesh Launches Billion Dollar ‘Model’ Mosques to Counter Radicals

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Mosques would be equipped with libraries and cultural centres. — Reuters

A senior official said 560 “model mosques cum cultural centres” would be built in the next 30 months as part of a government attempt to fight extremism.

DHAKA (AFP) — Bangladesh has launched a billion-dollar campaign to build hundreds of “model mosques”, partly with Saudi funding, to try to counter radical Islam in the Muslim-majority country, officials said on Friday.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who inaugurated work on nine mosques through a video conference on Thursday, is also trying to bolster links with Muslim groups in an election year, according to analysts.

A senior official said 560 “model mosques cum cultural centres” would be built in the next 30 months as part of a government attempt to fight extremism.

“In the next one to one and a half months, work on another 100 mosques will begin,” Shahmim Afzal, who heads the government Islamic affairs department, said.

They will be used to preach against “distorted Islamic philosophy” of groups such as Bangladesh’s largest opposition Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, the official added.

The country has been fighting Islamist extremism in recent years after militants carried out attacks on religious minorities, secular activists and foreigners.

Afzal said the centres of worship would be open to women, unlike most of the country’s 300,000 mosques, and would be equipped with libraries and cultural centres. “Each mosque will cost 150 million taka ($1.8 million),” he said.

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