Dhaka – The visiting head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation has emphasized inter-faith dialogue between Bangladeshi Muslim religious leaders and Buddhist leaders in Myanmar to bring to an end to the Rohingya crisis.
“The dialogue will help improve a better understanding among them (the leaders) and resolve the Rohingya problem,” Secretary General Yousef bin Ahmad said when he paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office on Thursday.
Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh facing sectarian violence in Myanmar in the past decades. More than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims have been living in squalid camps in south-eastern Bangladeshi district of Cox’s Bazar bordering Myanmar.
Bangladesh has been asking Myanmar time and again to take its nationals back to their homelands as more than 70,000 Rohingya crossed into Bangladesh facing the recent spate of violence in October last year.
Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters saying that the OIC secretary general thanked Bangladesh for giving shelter to a huge number of Rohingya refugees.
“You’re very generous,” Ahmad told Hasina.
He denounced the menace of terrorism and extremism and said Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance.
Ahmad also lauded Bangladesh’s tremendous socioeconomic development under the leadership of Prime Minister Hasina.
“I always say that you’re a successful leader and a shining example of the Muslim women in the world,” he told the prime minister.
While talking about the Bangladeshi workers abroad, Ahmad said they are resilient, hard working and professional.
He noted with happiness that Bangladesh is hosting two important events — OIC Foreign Ministers’s Conference and OIC Tourism Ministers’ Conference — next year.
He said the OIC will be happy to participate in any women development programme in Bangladesh.
Ahmad said OIC is likely to introduce scholarships for the students of its member states in the fields of science, technology and medicine.
Turning to the Rohingya refugee problem with Myanmar, the prime minister said the problem has started since 1991 and now there are some 400,000 undocumented Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
“We’re pursuing Myanmar to take back their nationals as I can’t throw them out,” she said.
In this connection, Hasina said that the government has already earmarked an island to give temporary shelter to the Rohingya refugees so that they could live in a better condition.
In response, the OIC secretary general appreciated the move saying, “It’s a brilliant idea.”
Hasina said that the Border Guards of both Bangladesh and Myanmar are also having talks and developed good relations among them.
Hasina said her government has adopted “zero tolerance policy” against the twin demons – terrorism and militancy – and involved cross section of people of the country to neutralise it.
She mentioned that people from all strata like imams, teachers, guardians are also participating to combat terrorism and militancy and it gave a positive result.
Hasina accused some political parties of patronizing terrorism in the country. “Islam is the religion of peace and tolerance and there is no room for terrorism in it,” she said.
Noting that communal harmony in Bangladesh, she said that the people are now living in peace and harmony.
Extending her thanks to the OIC secretary general for his huge appreciation over the country’s massive socioeconomic uplift, Hasina said that the aim of her government is to free the country from poverty alongside creating job opportunities in the rural areas.
PM’s International Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi present on the occasion.
The OIC secretary general arrived in Dhaka Wednesday on a four-day official trip marking his first ever visit to Bangladesh since his assumption of office of the Jeddah-based organisation.
Ahmad, the former social affairs minister of Saudi Arabia, was elected as the new secretary-general of the 57-member organization on November 17 last year. The OIC was founded in 1969.