She joined the function virtually from her official residence, Ganabhaban, in the capital.
Sheikh Hasina said the country’s founding father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has done a lot for Islam in the country, and as his successor her government is working relentlessly to uphold the spirit of Islam and for welfare of the people.
She said Islam is the best religion in the world, but this holy religion is sometimes exposed to criticism due to few militants.
“We’ve adopted zero tolerance policy towards militancy to uphold the peaceful glory of holy Islam by keeping the country free from militancy,” she said.
She also said they have formed committee comprising Islamic scholars in every area so that no child can get involved with militancy and drugs.
The prime minister added that Imams are being provided training engaging the religious leaders for the development of human resources.
The objectives of the event include providing the pilgrims with proper hajj-related information, making them aware about current technology-based hajj management, enabling them directly contact the Hajj agencies and reducing the influence of middlemen and scammers.
Two seminars would be held on ‘Hajj and Umrah Management: Achievements and Actions needed’ and ‘e-Hajj Management and Route to Makkah Initiatives’ in the conference.
Different Hajj agencies, financial organisations and the concerned authorities have set up some 150 stalls and pavilions in the three-day Hajj and Umrah fair, which remains open from 10 am to 8 pm every day.
Bangladesh, among the world, is the 4th largest pilgrim-sending country to Makkah.
More than 90 per cent of Bangladeshi hajj pilgrims and 100 per cent umrah pilgrims go to Saudi Arabia under private management.
State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Md. Mahbub Ali, State Minister for Religious Affairs Md. Faridul Haque Khan, its secretary Kazi Enamul Hassan, Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Issa bin Youssef Al-Dahilan and HAAB president M Shahadat Hossain Taslim also spoke at the inaugural ceremony.
About the mismanagement of hajj agents, the prime minister said if any agency cheats or harasses pilgrims, various administrative measures are taken against that agency.
She said, “Those, who will harass the guests of Allah’s House in the coming days, will have to face severe punishment. It’ll have to be remembered.”
The prime minister said her government formulated the Hajj and Umrah Management Act, 2021 and Hajj and Umrah Management Rules, 2022.
As a result, complaints of mismanagement, irregularities and misconduct in Hajj management have been remedied, she added.
She asked the Bangladeshi hajj pilgrims to know and abide by all local rules and laws in Saudi Arabia to uphold the appreciation Bangladesh achieved from Saudi Arabia in case of hajj management.
Focusing on her government’s success to improve Hajj management, the prime minister said she had brought many developments in hajj management during her first regime from 1996 to 2001 but the hajj management got worse again when Awami League was out of power for eight years after 2001.
“But now we’ve been able to bring world-class improvements in the hajj management as we are in power for a long time since 2009 by the grace of Allah,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said e-hajj management is being run in every sector including pre-registration and registration of pilgrims, creation of e-health profile, e-ticketing, transportation of pilgrims, housing management in Makkah and Medina, and healthcare.
She said her government set up a separate hajj office in Jeddah in 2009 and appointed a counselor (hajj) and a consular general (hajj) there.
“Every service including visa, passport, housing, medical facilities, travelling to Saudi Arabia and return from the Hajj were made easier for the hajj pilgrims,” she said, adding that her government dedicates three airlines including Biman Bangladesh to hajj pilgrims.
She said now the immigration process of the hajj pilgrims would be completed in Dhaka thanks to her government’s steps. So, now Bangladeshi pilgrims would not need to spend time for the immigration process in Jeddah, she added.
The prime minister said she had taken the measures on her experiences as she found many irregularities in hajj management (for Bangladeshi pilgrims) since she first performed the hajj in 1985 at the invitation of the king of Saudi Arabia.
“I saw such a messy situation with my own eyes. So, when I formed the government, my efforts were to remove the problems of pilgrims,” she said.