The emergence of Bangladesh and the founding of OIC were very close. Bangladesh won its independence on 16 December 1971 after nine long months of an armed liberation war. And OIC began its official functioning through the summit conference of the heads of state of 24 countries held in Morocco in 22-25 September 1969 and later the Foreign Ministers’ Council in 1970 and the establishment of the OIC secretariat.
OIC’s role was noticeable in the emergence of a Muslim populated state, that is, Bangladesh. Malaysia’s prime minister at the time, Tunku Abdur Rahman, was elected the first Secretary General of OIC. Just 28 days into the beginning of Bangladesh’s independence struggle, the UN secretary general U Thant sent a secret letter on 20 April 1971, to Tunku Abdur Rahman, requesting him to take initiative to mediate a political understanding between the leadership of West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Needless to say, that initiative bore no fruit.
Bangladesh becomes OIC member
After independence, Bangladesh’s government at the time particularly felt that it was important to establish relations with countries of the Muslim world. Political observer Abdullah Al Mamun said: “Post-liberation Bangladesh immediately faced nation building as well as state building task, which was a complex and multidimensional process and at the same time, the most cherished goal of any nation state. Post-liberation Awami League government faced many formidable problems such as the restoration of civil administration all over the country, promotion of law and order situation, rehabilitation of war victims, reconstruction of war-devastated economy, infrastructure and consolidation of national independence and securing foreign recognition, which depended mostly on socio-economic and political developments. To achieve these objectives, the Awami League government formulated policies concerning foreign relations with various countries as well as Muslim countries. The Mujib administration launched a massive diplomatic campaign to achieve these goals and early recognition by the world communities including Muslim countries for the greater interest of newly emerged Bangladesh.”
After a long span of time, on 22 February 1974, Pakistan gave it recognition to Bangladesh. The governments of Turkey and Iran also granted their recognition on the same day. It was announced that day at the one o’clock news of Radio Bangladesh that Bangladesh would be attending the 23-24 February Islamic summit in Lahore.
Bangladesh gained membership to OIC in 1974. It established ties with the Muslim world and steadily stepped up bilateral and multilateral relations.
OIC education programme
OIC is committed to work for international peace, solidarity, development and advancement. Its charter states:
“To preserve and promote the lofty Islamic values of peace, compassion, tolerance, equity, justice and human dignity, to contribute to international peace and security.
To create conducive conditions for sound up-bringing of Muslim children and youth and to inculcate in them Islamic values through education for strengthening their cultural, social, moral and ethical ideas.”
Many countries around the world have adopted programmes to meet the above objectives. The setting up of the international standard University of Technology in Bangladesh strengthened and speeded up the process.
Bangladesh University of Technology
Islamic University of Technology (IUT) & subsidiary organ of the Islamic conference (OIC) located at Board Bazar, Gazipur is the First International University in Bangladesh, from 1978 to 1994 A known as Islamic centre for technical and vocational training and Research (ICTVTR), then in 1994 was named as Islamic Institute of Technology (IIT) and Finally in the year 2000 it flourished as IUT.
Through the foundation of ICTVTR was established in 1981, it only began fully functioning in 1986. The IUT Vice Chancellor Dr Fazle Elahi said, “The long regular classes started in December 1986 with 66 students from Bangladesh, Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan, Tunisia and since then the academic programmes are being held as per schedule.” Once its programmes began in full swing, this institution became reputed not just among OIC countries, but in other countries of the world too. It was said that the names of the institution should be changed in keeping with its programmes. At the 22nd Conference of Islamic Foreign Ministers held in Casablanca, Morocco, in 1994, ICTVTR’s name was changed to Islamic Institute of Technology (IIT). It later further updated and in 2000 became the Islamic University of Technology (IUT). The secretary general’s report stated: “The long regular classes started in December 1986 with 66 students from Bangladesh, Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan, Tunisia and since then the academic programmes are being held as per schedule.”
At present the university has 770 students from 20 countries and about 140 teachers and officers, among whom are 50 highly qualified teachers.
After its establishment, IDB took up significant programmes in Bangladesh. It worked for the spread of education, particularly in the field of science and technology. The Islamic Development Bank-Bangladesh Islamic Solidarity Education Waqf (IDB-BISEW) was established for such programmes. This was set up under an agreement signed between the Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and the Bangladesh government. After the agreement was signed, Bangladesh government provided a two-acre plot of land on Rokeya Sarani and IDB provided Tk 13.2 million to construction a 21 storey building there. Later, from 2003, in various courses, 5401 students were given scholarships. Of them, 3935 in the Computer Fundamental Course and 2170 as Professional Course Graduates were given jobs in 977 firms. It has thus been working to resolve the countries unemployment problem and building a society dependent on information and technology. There is a 13-member Islamic Solidarity Fund permanent committee.
In accordance to a resolution taken at the Conference of Finance Ministers o Muslim Countries in December 1973 in Jeddah, in August 1974 the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) signed the Bangladesh Islamic Development Bank (IDB) charter. With the approval of various states and organisations, it was established as an international organisation and officially began its programmes from 20 October 1975.
OIC’s financial programmes are basically carried out through IDB. From the very outset, IDB has been carrying out various development programmes in Bangladesh. Its programmes from 1 January 1976 to December 2009 have been presented here. In this span of time, 65 projects were granted funds of US$ 570 million, 8 projects were given technical assistance of US$ 42 million, 202 commercial programmes were provided US$ 6953.7 million, 12 projects were given special assistance of US$ 3.5 million.
The quality seeds promotion project is a food security project under the Jeddah Declaration. The main objective of this project is to enhance the competence of three institutions in Bangladesh. These are the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, and Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation. The objective of the project for the development of the rural and small enterprises is to provide support to develop and small and medium entrepreneurs in six districts of the country. IDB also provides assistance at various times for humanitarian causes. In November 2007, when the devastating cyclone Sidr hit Bangladesh’s southern region, IDB provided US$ 130 million for various projects at the time. Of this, 85% were for various development programmes, such as construction of 700 schools/cyclone shelter centres. The remaining 15% were used for emergency relief material. After the founding of IDB, it has been providing technical and financial assistance to firmly establish more OIC programmes in Bangladesh.
Islami Bank Bangladesh established
The first interest-free Islamic bank was set up in the sixties in Mit Ghamr, Egypt. An active movement arose to set up such a bank in Bangladesh too. In August 1974, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed the Bangladesh Islamic Development Bank or IDB charter.
In November 1982 a delegation of the Islamic Development Bank came to Bangladesh. They expressed IDB’s interest to set up an Islamic Bank in Bangladesh though joint initiative in the private sector. As a result, on 13 March 1983, the Dhaka International Islamic Bank Limited was established as the first interest-free bank in Southeast Asia.
Islami Bank Bangladesh Limited is the pioneer of Islamic banks in Bangladesh. It is the first bank in Southeast Asia to be run in accordance to Sharia. It was established as a public limited company under the Companies Act 1913 on 13 March 1983. It is a joint investment commercial bank, with 36.91 % local and 63.09% foreign investment. It has become the country’s biggest private sector bank with 322 branches. It is registered with the Dhaka Stock Exchange and the Chittagong Stock Exchange with an authorised capital of Tk 20,000 million and paid up capital of Tk 16,099 million.
The Islamic banks in Bangladesh include:
1. Islami Bank Bangladesh Ltd (IBBL)
2. Al-Arafah Islami Bank Ltd
3. Social Islamic Bank Ltd
4. Export Import Bank of Bangladesh (EXIM Bank)
5. Shahjalal Islami Bank Ltd
6. ICB Islami Bank Ltd
7. Union Bank Ltd
Foreign Ministers’ Conference
The OIC member state Foreign Ministers’ conference in held every year in any country. The 14th Islamic Foreign Ministers’ conference was held in Dhaka on 6-19 December 1983. It was attended by delegates from 36 countries. Joining as observers were representatives from Cyprus, Moro Liberation Front, Nigeria, Rabeta Al-Alam-e-Islami, Jamiyate Dawa, Mu’tamar-e-Alam-e Islami of Pakistan, Arab League, Organisation of African Unity and representative of the US Secretary General.
Presently, the OIC Foreign Minister’s 45th session is underway in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The theme of this year’s meet is ‘Islamic Values for Sustainable Peace, Solidarity and Development. The Rohingya crisis is receiving special focus at this conference, along with other challenges faced by the Muslim world.
* Syed Shah Amran is director, Islamic Foundation