Having been misguided by their misleading speeches, a large number of people are also spreading Covid-19 falsehoods on social media
At least 60 so-called Islamic scholars have come up with various unscientific comments and disinformation during sermons at different times since the coronavirus pandemic made inroads into the country.
Neither the Ministry of Religious Affairs nor Bangladesh Police has taken any initiative to refrain them from circulating "fear-provoking" information and "bigotry" on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Having been misguided by their misleading speeches, a large number of people are also spreading Covid-19 falsehoods on social media.
Taslima Hossain, Bodorganj upazila nirbahi officer in Rangpur, told The Business Standard that every day they have to make people understand that these speeches are not true.
"We have found many people who are very confident that they will not contract Covid-19 because they are honest and Muslims. It is very tough to convince them in rural areas that these sermons are not true," she added.
Md Tofazzal Hossain, 45, a resident in Raipur upazila of Lakshmipur, does not wear a mask or any such safety gear.
He said, "I have seen many videos on this virus. In a video of Mufti Amir Hamza, I have learnt that nothing will happen to true Muslims. That is why I do not wear a mask or wash hands."
According to the Bangladesh Police Headquarters and the Islamic Foundation, they are only observing these religious scholars spreading disinformation without taking any legal actions against them.
When contacted Mir Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general and spokesman of Bangladesh Police, said the home ministry has made a list of 15 preachers only for their derogatory comments and hate speeches, but no list has been made yet for spreading misleading information regarding Covid-19.
"We are closely monitoring their activities and speeches. If we find something fishy, we will take legal actions against them," he added.
An additional deputy commissioner of the Dhaka Metropolitan Police's Cyber Crime and Security Division told The Business Standard that once they get a complaint against a preacher they will take necessary steps.
"Until a written complaint is lodged, we can do nothing," he added.
Meanwhile, a broadcast journalist has received an online death threat for reporting the spread of such misinformation through sermons.
Ahidul Islam, journalist of a private television channel, filed a general diary with Tejgaon Police Station in the capital city last month.
Ahidul said he had covered four episodes on the absurd and provocative contents of the sermons recently.
Immediately after the reports were broadcast, several users posted death threats against him online. A preacher named M Hasibur Rahman threatened him during one of his sermons.
Sub-Inspector of Tejgaon Police Station Nizamuddin is investigating the case and trying to trace the people who posted the death threats.
"We are still trying to track him," he said.
Meanwhile, misinformation and fabricated stories on a fake magic cure for the novel coronavirus across the globe are being disseminated through many sermons on the internet.
In fact, such sermons were spreading panic and confusion among the people instead of contributing to placating fear in this grave situation, experts viewed.
The lectures centred on bigotry are misrepresenting Islam, the religion of harmony and peace, they said.
The contents of these sermons are hateful and such irrational beliefs usually go to create bigots, according to some experts.
Soon after the outbreak of Covid-19 in China in mid-December 2019, some religious preachers came up with some comments linking the fatal virus with the alleged repression of Muslim minorities in China's Xinjiang province. A speaker at a sermon said the coronavirus was the result of Chinese authorities' subjugation of Uighur Muslims and divine retribution for shutting down mosques.
The speaker, Tarek Monowar, in another recent sermon, told an audience that a singer who criticised Azan has recently visited Bangladesh and performed at a stadium. The virus is now searching for people who hold anti-Muslim ideologies and would soon wreak havoc on them.
Another speaker Kazi Ibrahim, whose sermon went viral on the social media platform, claimed that he had interviewed the coronavirus in a dream and invented the formula to cure people of the disease. He also claimed that his formula to combat the virus sparked huge reactions in the US and scientists there started studying his interview and formula.
Another speaker claimed that only Muslims would be spared from the coronavirus and the rest of humanity will face the consequences.
When contacted, Tarek Monowar denied making any comment regarding his speech on the coronavirus.
Maulana Farid Uddin Masud, a leading and noted Islamic scholar, told The Business Standard that such fabricated sermons are actually misrepresenting Islam. People who do not have any knowledge about the issue are giving opinions in such sermons. Islam prohibits spreading panic and fear-provoking information, but these preachers were only spreading terror and bigotry among people.
The scholar said some preachers are trying to draw people's attention and increase their popularity by taking the opportunity of the situation. Their tools are religious prejudice and intolerance.
As several Muslim majority countries have been severely affected by the deadly virus, there is no scope for speculation that Muslims were any less vulnerable to the disease.
He warned that if such sermons were not checked immediately, it could cause more panic and lead to much confusion about the virus in the county.
"The government must address the issue and consult with these preachers who are spreading fake information to contain them. If required, strong steps must be taken," Farid Uddin Masud added.
State Minister for Religious Affairs Sheikh Md Abdullah told The Business Standard that they were aware of such sermons and considering strong actions since these preachers are distorting the very essence of Islam.
"The Islamic Foundation has undertaken training for imams and Islamic scholars who will fight such religious bigotry with proper messages of Islam," the minister said.
Senior Imam of Baitul Mukarram National Mosque Mufti Mijanur Rahman said, "From the reference of the Quran and Hadith, when this kind of epidemic shows up in a country, sometimes it may be Allah's punishment for sin and unethical stuffs. Moreover, Allah sometimes examines mankind through trouble. Now, if the so-called Islamic scholars said that the doctors' treatment and awareness are useless in this phenomena, it is a disgraceful comment."
"The Prophet Muhammad (SWM) said specifically that you have to take medication if you are sick. Treatment, staying neat and clean, and cleaning households and furniture are our responsibilities," he added.