Singapore 'not exempted' from radicalisation sweeping world
The wave of radicalisation is sweeping through the world and our region - and Singapore is not exempted, said Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam (right) yesterday afternoon.
He was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a closed-door event at Temasek Polytechnic.
On Tuesday, the Home Affairs Ministry revealed that eight radicalised Bangladeshi men were detained last month under the Internal Security Act for plotting terror attacks in their own country.
They would meet in parks or open fields, and share large amounts of radical propaganda and videos. (See report below)
Another five investigated under the ISA were repatriated.
"These people had wanted to go to the Middle East but they couldn't and so they were looking at other means.
"We could have been a target because they were prepared to attack anywhere.
"If they had been directed to attack in Singapore, they would have attacked in Singapore.
"So it shows the seriousness. It brings home again Paris, Jakarta... (the threat) is here to stay," said Mr Shanmugam.
Adding that material on bomb-making and sniper rifles were recovered on detainees, he said: "You and I don't go do research on those... so yes, there is a concern."
We could have been a target because they were prepared to attack anywhere. If they had been directed to attack in Singapore, they would have attacked in Singapore.
- Minister for Home Affairs K. Shanmugam
'Workers now worried they can't pray together'
Some Bangladeshi workers sporting a beard are perceived as terrorists.
Others are not allowed to have their meals together - a measure some companies have taken to prevent any sharing of propaganda material among workers, said Mr A.K.M. Mohsin (photo), editor of Banglar Kantha, Singapore's only Bengali newspaper.
With Ramadan coming up next month, the workers are now worried they will not be able to pray together.
Such is the impact that the latest spate of arrests and detentions of Bangladeshi workers under the Internal Security Act has had on the community, said Mr Mohsin.
Late last year, 27 Bangladeshi men were arrested and deported for terror links and possession of material on terrorist propaganda.
Last month, another eight men were detained under the Internal Security Act. Five others were repatriated.
Mr Mohsin, 52, explained: "Ninety-five per cent of the Bangladeshi workers here are Muslim, and most are very pious.
"They grow beards to emulate the actions of Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have had a beard. But now they feel that if they follow their religion closely, people here will think that they are terrorists."
As someone who runs Dibashram - a space for migrant workers here to get together for cultural activities and fellowship - Mr Mohsin is concerned about the plight of the Bangladeshi workers after the high-profile arrests.
"We should allow them to spend their weekends on recreational activities so they don't have time to do bad things, or be involved in ridiculous discussions (that are held to radicalise).
"We should think of migrant workers as human beings, not machines," he said.
WORRIED FOR HIS CHILDREN
As a father of three daughters aged six, 16 and 18, he is also concerned about how his children will be affected by the news.
"Like other parents, I'm worried about how Singaporeans will look at my children in another way. Actually, (these arrests) bring a lot of shame to us," he said quietly.
Mr Mohsin is expected to meet the Singapore Bangladesh Society today to come up with some measures to improve the situation.
"Today, I told some of them (in the society) that we come forward to do something only when an incident like this happens. After that, we stop. That is no good. We have to continue our efforts to the migrant workers here," he said.
5 things to know about the detainees
Eight Bangladeshis, who called themselves the Islamic State in Bangladesh (ISB), were detained last month under the Internal Security Act (ISA), and another five were repatriated, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Tuesday. Here are five things you need to know about the detainees:
1 ISB's leader was radicalised in 2013
Rahman Mizanur, 31, had been working on and off in Singapore since 2007. When he last came to Singapore last December, the authorities had no information to suggest that Rahman had radicalised views.
At the time of his arrest, he was working as a draftsman in a construction firm.
The seeds of terrorism were first sown in Rahman in 2013 when he read radical material online. He became more radicalised after a fellow Bangladeshi shared the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) propaganda material with him last year in Bangladesh.
2 ISB was a structured organisation
Members were given specific roles, such as leader and deputy leader, and were assigned responsibilities like managing the finances.
They would usually meet at parks or open fields and would share large amounts of radical propaganda and videos.
ISB was the first group comprising all foreigners to be detained under the ISA for terrorism-related activities in Singapore, said MHA.
3 Detainees had at least three years' work experience here
When the eight detainees first came to work here, they were not known to be radicalised or involved in terrorism-related activities.
Each of them had worked here for between three and 10 years in the construction and marine industries. The authorities found no significant concentration in any particular company or accommodation.
The workers were arrested between late March and early April and were issued with two-year Orders of Detention late last month.
Five other workers who were repatriated - Evan Galib Hassan Chowdhury, Rana Masud, Pailot Md Rana Miea, Islam Tanjemul and Alomgir Md - were not part of the ISB, said MHA. But they possessed or proliferated jihadi-related materials, or supported the use of armed violence in pursuit of a religious cause.
4 Funds raised by ISB were members' own contributions
At the time of the arrests, money was seized from the detainees.
MHA said the funds raised were from the members' own contributions. The members had intended to use the funds to buy firearms for their planned terror attacks, but are not known to have acted yet.
Several of them may be prosecuted for terrorism-financing, and investigations are ongoing.
5 There is no link between ISB and the Bangladeshi nationals arrested last year
Some of the eight detainees chanced upon members of the radical religious group who were deported for terror links last year, but there is no indication that the eight detainees from ISB were part of this group. The Bangladeshi nationals in both incidents were not known to have been targeting Singapore at the time of their arrests.