Saudi to build hundreds of mosques to spread Wahhabism in Bangladesh

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SHAFAQNA – Bangladesh has approved a project to build hundreds of mosques with almost US$1 billion (S$1.39 billion) from Saudi Arabia, an official said Wednesday, worrying minorities who fear they could be used to spread Wahhabism.

The government plans to construct 560 mosques – one in every town in Bangladesh – as the secular administration woos extremist groups before elections.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sought the funds from Saudi Arabia, which will provide the lion’s share of the US$1.07 billion cost, during a visit to the oil-rich state last year, said planning minister Mustofa Kamal.

The centers of worship – equipped with research facilities, libraries and cultural centers – would be a “model” for worshippers in the Muslim-majority country, said Shamim Afzal, head of the state-run Islamic Foundation.

“It is a perfect idea of spreading the true knowledge of Islam,” he said.

But minority groups are less certain, concerned the proliferation of Saudi-backed mosques could spread the ultra-conservative doctrine of Wahhabism practiced in the kingdom.

Rezaul Haq Chandpuri, from a federation representing Sufi Muslims who have been targeted for violence, said there was no justification for these new mosques.

“Saudi finance is a concern. They may use their money to promote Wahhabism through these mosques,” he said, adding minorities would feel “helpless and insecure”.

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