Prime Minister Khaleda Zia distributed Sunday awards and certificates among 10 selected best Imams from six administrative divisions in the conference of Imams for their outstanding contributions towards socio-economic development in their respective areas, reports BSS.
The Islamic Foundation Bangladesh and the UNFPA jointly organised the conference of the Imams in the city who had earlier participated in Imam training courses.
Ministers, lawmakers, Islamic thinkers, representatives of international development agencies and a large number of Imams of the mosques from across the country attended the conference under the Religious Affairs Ministry project titled 'Involvement of Religious Leaders and Human Resources Development'.
Reiterating Bangladesh's stand against radicalism and militancy, the Prime Minister said, "We do not support religious or any other kind of militancy. The government or the country never provides sanctuary, encouragement, support to any kind of extremism."
Khaleda Zia said the country is faced with two big challenges - development of the country and ensuring appropriate environment for achieving this objective.
"It is not the government alone which is facing this challenge. It is a challenge before the whole nation. The government cannot face it single-handedly. All have to work together for accomplishing these two tasks," Khaleda Zia added.
The Prime Minister expressed the hope that the Imams would contribute towards national development and also requested them to remain alert so that an environment conducive to development prevails.
Mentioning that there are over 0.40 million (4.0 lakh) Imams and Muazzins in over 0.20 million mosques all over the country, the Prime Minister said they could make important contributions to the development of the country and the nation utilising their closeness with the local people.
The Prime Minister also expressed the hope that the Imams would play effective role in improving the behaviours and values of the people during exchanges of views on different occasions, particularly in 'Khutbas' (sermons) Fridays.
The Prime Minister said her government wants to involve the Imams in healthcare, poverty reduction and education programmes and appreciated the role of Imams and Muazzins in removing illiteracy through mosque-based mass literacy programme.
"Islam is a religion of liberality and humanism. This religion teaches us to follow the right path by maintaining peace, equality, amity and fellow-feeling. It is, therefore, our moral duty and obligation to ensure the rights of all people of this country irrespective of their gender and to ensure proper application of moral values," the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister said as the religious leaders directly interact with the common masses, the Imams have even more responsibility for providing proper guidance. No nation can advance by ignoring the present realities and without determining the future goals, the Prime Minister added.
"We must have to apply knowledge and science to meet today's needs and tomorrow's demands. Education has to be made time-befitting and work-oriented," the Prime Minister said, adding that, the government has already started work on eliminating inequalities in the education system.
Modern training programmes for the Madrasa teachers have also been started and an Imam-Muazzin Welfare Trust has been constituted with a grant of Tk 40 million from the government, Khaleda Zia said.
"An extensive workplan for poverty alleviation through employment generation will be undertaken by utilising this fund," the Prime Minister added.
Imam representative Nazmus Salehin strongly condemned terrorist activities and killings in the name of Islam and said those involved in such activities are anti-Islamic.
Stressing the need arresting the wrongdoers, he said the Imams have already begun creating public opinion against them. All the Imams attending the function expressed the same sentiment.