Thursday 21 January 2016

27 radicalised Bangladeshis held under the Internal Security Act

They were planning attacks outside Singapore but were a serious threat to the Republic: PM Lee
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy News Editor, Politics, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

Twenty-seven Bangladeshi workers who were planning terror attacks back home have been arrested in the largest security crackdown in Singapore in 15 years.

All but one of these construction workers, aged between 25 and 40, were deported last month, the Ministry of Home Affairs said yesterday.

Md Zahidul Islam Md Foyej Uddin, 32, is still here, serving a 12-week jail term for trying to leave the country illegally after learning his friends had been arrested. He will be sent home after his jail term.

The men were part of a closed religious study group that had met discreetly every week since 2013, and used the premises of a few local mosques near where some of them stayed. Most worked here for between two and seven years. They were not concentrated in any particular company, workplace or neighbourhood. They were picked up under the Internal Security Act between Nov 16 and Dec 1 last year.

In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said: "They were plotting nefarious activities in Bangladesh and other countries, and not in Singapore. But they were still a serious threat to us."

Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam, who a day earlier underlined the radical threat, said: "They could have easily changed their minds and attacked Singapore."

Found in the men's possession was "a significant amount" of radical material, including books and videos of young children undergoing paramilitary training with the flag of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the background.

Several men shared a document, adapted from a manual for assassins, and saved under the title "Techniques of Silent Killing". It had graphic images and instructions in Bengali on how to attack and kill a victim stealthily.

All but one of the men arrested were members of the group that subscribed to extremist beliefs and the teachings of radical ideologues like Yemeni-American preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in a United States drone strike in 2011.

They believed they should "wage armed jihad" against the Bangladeshi government. Some considered travelling to the Middle East. The group's only non-member was in the process of becoming radicalised, supported extremist preachers and had radical materials, the ministry said, without naming him.

The men also donated money to entities believed to be linked to extremist groups in their country. They "carefully targeted the recruitment of other Bangladeshi nationals to grow their membership".

The Home Affairs Ministry said: "This is the first time Singapore has uncovered a jihadist terror cell comprising foreigners." Previously, members of the Singapore Jemaah Islamiah network, detected in 2001, were involved in terrorist incidents overseas. Last year, four Singaporeans were detained because they were planning to take part in armed violence overseas alongside ISIS.

Shanmugam reassures law-abiding foreign workers they have nothing to fear

There are an estimated 160,000 Bangladeshi nationals here, mostly work permit holders.

Bangladeshis interviewed were surprised their countrymen would plot violence while in Singapore.

Muslim leaders said the arrests signal the need to be more vigilant and to engage foreigners who worship at mosques, and prevent deviant teachings from taking root.

Bangladesh Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said officials are investigating the men.

Radicalisation of Bangladeshi workers arrested under ISA dates back to 2013
Bangladeshi workers started a closed study group to discuss conflicts involving Muslims
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy News Editor, Politics, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

In April 2013, terrorist group Islamic State announced it would expand its operations beyond Iraq as the civil war in Syria worsened.

Around the same time, supporters of radical Bangladesh Islamist group Jamaat-e-Islami were engaged in a wave of violence in the country that saw attacks on police and minorities.

That same year, a group of Bangladeshi construction workers in Singapore began a closed religious study group to discuss these conflicts that involved Muslims, and whether they should take up arms.

By the end of last year, their number had grown.

Between Nov 16 and Dec 1 last year, 26 members and another who nearly joined them were arrested under the Internal Security Act, Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said yesterday.

Ranging in age from 25 to 40, most had worked in Singapore between two and seven years.

These work permit holders were not concentrated in any particular construction company or workplace, nor were they concentrated in a particular residential area.

But they met every week to discuss taking up arms, and even used the premises of a few local mosques located near where some of them were staying, the ministry said.

Singapore Muslim leaders believe they might have slipped under the radar because quite a number of Bangladeshi workers gather at mosques, especially on weekends, to worship and do volunteer work.

Language poses a significant barrier too: Most Bangladeshi Muslims worship together with other Muslims, but when it comes to discussing religious matters, they are more comfortable using their own language. This group of radicalised men appeared to have taken measures to be discreet about what they discussed.

They circulated hardline material secretly among themselves.

They also carefully targeted fellow Bangladeshis to grow their numbers.

Some even distributed leaflets calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate, according to Bangladeshi workers interviewed who knew some of them.

Among themselves, they circulated videos of radical preachers as well as footage put out by supporters of terror groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

These show clips of young children undergoing martial arts as well as firearms training in what appear to be conflict zones. In the background are rousing Arabic recitations, also common in videos put out by ISIS to instil fervour among viewers.

The ministry said the members of the group supported the ideology of armed jihad espoused by terror groups like Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

They also had grievances against their government back home over its actions against some Bangladeshi Islamic groups and leaders. The Bangladesh government had clamped down on these groups and detained their leaders.

The members donated money to outfits linked to these groups.

Some also supported the violent actions of extremists who killed Shi'ite Muslims because they considered them to be deviant.

So when this group of Bangladeshi nationals gathered every week, they encouraged members to return home and take up arms against their government.

It appears they went beyond just instilling fervour through videos.

Some members had a soft copy document in Bengali that showed, through graphics, how they could attack a targeted victim and kill him quickly and quietly.

The ministry did not give details of how the group was detected, but many Singaporeans and Bangladeshis yesterday denounced these plans and were relieved they were found out before harm was done.

14 of the 26 deported men arrested on their return home
Bangladesh conducting probe; 12 others released and being monitored by police
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Bureau Chief In New Delhi, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

Bangladesh has arrested 14 of the 26 men deported from Singapore on terror charges and released the remaining 12, who are being monitored by police.

The Singapore authorities had arrested the 26 men, most of them construction workers, after discovering that they were planning terror attacks in their own country.

The 14 men were charged last month under the Anti-Terrorism Act after they returned to Bangladesh, Dhaka police officials said. Under the Act, the maximum punishment is the death sentence.

On Dec 27, they appeared in a Dhaka court, which ordered them to be detained in jail while investigations took place.

"The 14 are now in jail... investigations are going on. The rest have been released to their relatives under some conditions. They are being monitored," Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told The Straits Times. "They don't have any previous record."

Police investigations showed that the men were from different parts of Bangladesh and got to know each other while working in Singapore.

The men were part of a closed religious study group that had met discreetly every week since 2013, according to Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry.

Mr Mashrukur Rahman Khaled, a deputy commissioner with the Dhaka police, said the men were influenced by the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT), also known as Ansar Bangla, an extremist organisation in Bangladesh.

The ABT has been accused of being behind a series of gruesome killings of atheist bloggers.

Bangladesh has seen a rise in extremist violence in recent years, marked by the high-profile murders of four bloggers, one publisher and two foreign nationals over the past 12 months alone.

Analysts see the development as a cause for concern for Bangladesh in its fight to stamp out terror.

"How deeply they were committed and how they were in possession of whatever evidence was found by Singapore. This is a matter for investigators to come up with (answers)," said Mr Tariq Karim, a former Bangladeshi diplomat and a distinguished fellow with the Delhi-based Vivekananda International Foundation.

"Certainly this should be worrying for any country and any government."

ISA arrests: Singaporeans must be more vigilant against radical ideologies: Yaacob Ibrahim
By Shea Driscoll, The Straits Times, 20 Jan 2016

Singaporeans must be more vigilant, whether against radical teachings and ideologies, or of any suspicious activities, said Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim in response to the arrest of 27 radicalised Bangladeshis under the Internal Security Act.

He also urged Singaporeans to remain united and not discriminate against foreign workers here.

The 27 arrested were working in the construction sector here.

"The actions of a few cannot determine how we treat others who have worked so hard to build our homes, schools and hospitals," Dr Yaacob said in a Facebook post on Wednesday afternoon (Jan 20).

He also expressed his concern over the arrests.

"Terrorism is a continuing threat that can have a grave impact on all of us.

"I appeal that we be more vigilant, whether against radical teachings and ideologies, or of any suspicious activities around us," he said.

Dr Yaacob added: "All of us, regardless of race, language or religion, have a role to play. With solidarity and strong bonds of trust, I am confident we can overcome these threats as one people."

MP and Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin added: "Extremist ideas are not just what we read about in newspapers. We have to be vigilant. We should speak up to make it absolutely clear that extremism has no place in our multiracial and religious Singapore."

The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) denounced acts or plans by extremist groups that threaten the security of Singapore. Dr Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, Mufti of Singapore, said Muis will continue to step up efforts to prevent any form of radical teachings from taking root in the Singaporean Muslim community. Muis and the mosques also work closely with the Singapore Bangladeshi Association to enhance the welfare of the Bangladeshi workers.


"Muis, together with the Singapore Muslim community, joins fellow Singaporeans in denouncing any acts or plans by extremist groups which threaten the security, peace and harmony of Singapore and the world. They contradict the fundamental Islamic teaching of protecting the sanctity of human life and preserving peace and harmony at all times.

The safety and peace of Singapore is of paramount interest to the Singapore Muslim community. We have a commendable tradition of living as inclusive and progressive Muslims within the context of Singapore's multi-ethnic and multi-religious landscape.

In recent times, the community itself is growing in diversity, with the inclusion of our brothers and sisters from around the world who come to our shores to visit and work, as well as greater exposure through the internet and social media to the many orientations of Islam.

Just as we have shown the beauty of Islam in being able to live with other faith communities, so too should we refrain from intolerance within our own community. Exclusivist and isolationist tendencies will only lead to extreme religious thinking and practice, which is unacceptable and goes against the very essence of Islamic teachings.

Muis calls upon the Singapore Muslim community to remain vigilant and uphold our resilience against these tendencies, radical ideologies and individuals who subscribe to them, both online and offline.

On its part, Muis will continue to step up efforts to prevent any form of radical teachings from taking root in the Singaporean Muslim community."


"Singapore has a large number of foreign workers which include Bangladeshi Muslims working in the construction and the cleaning sector. Over the years, the Bangladeshis have been become part of and embraced by the diverse mosque congregation.

They perform prayers regularly at the mosques and also volunteer their time in helping the mosques in noble work such as preparing for and cleaning up after iftar during Ramadan as well as during other Islamic festivals such as Korban.

Muis and the mosques have taken several proactive steps to ensure that our Bangladeshi congregation could perform prayers in a conducive environment, given the prayer space constraints. Several mosques have included holding two sessions of Friday prayers and even Eid prayers to specially cater to their needs.

Muis and the mosques also work closely with the Singapore Bangladeshi Association (SBA) to enhance the welfare of the Bangladeshi workers. For example, the text of Muis' Eid sermons are translated into Bangla for the benefit of the workers.

We do hope that the discovery of the heinous plan by the group does not tarnish the good image of our Bangladeshi workers.

Muis has been stepping up efforts to prevent radical teachings from taking root in the community. This includes working with mosques to help them better design and manage their programmes, to ensure that mosque programmes promote intra and interfaith harmony through deep understanding of Islamic principles and practices, do not contain any element of deviant or radical teachings and ideologies and are not used as platforms to disparage other sects or religious thoughts in Islam or to denigrate other faiths.

Muis calls on the community to be vigilant against such teachings."

ISA ARRESTS: Footage of children undergoing physical and firearms training in terrorist camps was circulated among the...
Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How one worker learnt of friend's arrest
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

One morning in November last year, a Bangladeshi construction worker here received a call from his friend's brother.

"I could barely make out what he was saying. He sounded very scared," said the worker, who gave his name only as Mahbub.

After calming the man down, Mr Mahbub learnt that a group of people had picked up his friend - Hossen Md Akram - from the shophouse in Desker Road where he was staying. No one knew who they were.

"I tried calling Akram but he did not answer," said Mr Mahbub, 28.

A week went by. Akram's brother, who was newly arrived in Singapore and also a construction worker, was getting frantic.

Frustrated, Mr Mahbub lodged a report about his missing friend at a police station. That was when worry gave way to shock. A senior officer advised him to have a word with Akram's boss.

The boss said "Akram was caught by police but not the ones we always see", Mr Mahbub said. He was also told that Akram would be sent back to Bangladesh.

He told Akram's brother what he had learnt. The man was relieved, but the saga was not over.

Last month, Mr Mahbub found out that Akram had been arrested in Dhaka as soon as his flight landed in Bangladesh.

Akram's family was not allowed to meet him, and he is still in jail.

Yesterday, Akram, 32, was named as one of 27 Bangladeshi workers who had been arrested in Singapore between November and last month under the Internal Security Act.

They were planning terror attacks back home. All of them had their work permits cancelled and 26 have since been repatriated.

Mr Mahbub still cannot get over the shock of learning that Akram had become radicalised.

The two men, who are from the same village in Bangladesh, came to Singapore six years ago.

He said he had no idea when radical thoughts took root in his friend's mind.

"Akram would go to the mosque on Sundays," he said.

Other Bangladeshi nationals told The Straits Times that they were aware of extremist groups back home, but did not expect to find them in "safe and secure" Singapore.

Mr Abdul Khaeer Mohammed Mohsin, 53, editor of the Banglar Kantha, a Bengali newspaper here, said he had heard of "disappearing" workers last month.

He ran a report in this month's issue of the paper about workers being deported for alleged extremist behaviour.

"It's a shameful situation," he said. "They are here to work, not engage in political or extremist activities."

Workers said they hoped Singaporeans would not judge their community by the actions of these 27 men.

Construction worker Nurzzaman, 32, said: "It's a very, very small group... Most of us don't agree with them. Our country is not (extremist)."

Bangladeshis 'mostly peace-loving'
By Aw Cheng Wei, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

While condemning the actions of 27 compatriots arrested last year under the Internal Security Act, Bangladesh's High Commissioner to Singapore stressed that most Bangladeshis are peace-loving and law-abiding.

Speaking to The Straits Times at the funeral of a community leader at Angullia Mosque in Little India yesterday, High Commissioner Mahbub Uz Zaman said the Singapore Government was "right in sending them back", referring to the radicalised individuals.

All but one of the 27 construction workers, who were planning to wage armed jihad in their home country, had been deported. The remaining one is serving a jail term for trying to leave Singapore illegally. He will also be deported after he serves his time.

Mr Zaman, who has been holding his post since 2012, confirmed that police in Dhaka are investigating the matter.

"The radicals were arrested once they landed," he said.

Currently, there are 160,000 Bangladeshi nationals in the Republic. Most work in construction but Mr Zaman did not provide specific figures. He said his embassy will continue to visit workers in their dormitories. "We will inform them that they are to follow the laws here and not get involved in illegal activities."

But he highlighted that the 27 are "not representative of the community". Mr Zaman stressed that Bangladeshis here belong to "a peace-loving community that follows the rules of the countries they are residing in", which has also contributed to society.

I was extremely concerned to hear about the discovery of a radical cell comprising foreign workers in Singapore....
Posted by Chan Chun Sing on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Bangladeshi workers still needed here: Employers
By Toh Yong Chuan, Manpower Correspondent, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

While shocked by the news that 27 Bangladeshi construction workers who turned radical had been arrested here, employers said they would continue to hire workers from that country.

Some said they would do so because their options were limited, while others felt that the actions of a handful should not taint the whole group.

The Singapore Contractors Association, which represents construction firms, declined to comment on the impact of the arrests on the sector, saying the case is sensitive and the association did not have sufficient information.

But Ms Annie Gan, managing director of Jian Huang Construction, said workers from India and Bangladesh will continue to be needed in the sector because they do the hard labour that other workers shun.

"It cannot be that we stop hiring them because of just one case," she said. "What is important is that companies continue to look after the welfare of their workers so that they feel (that they are) a part of the company and Singapore."

Besides the construction sector, cleaning companies also hire Bangladeshi workers to clear the rubbish bins in Housing Board estates.

"It is the only source of foreign workers approved for town council work, so we will continue to hire them unless there are other new approved sources," said Mr Milton Ng, managing director of Ramky Cleantech Services.

Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Thomas Chua said the episode showed that it is critical to assimilate these workers properly into the labour force, "regardless of the country of their origin".

Bangladesh High Commissioner Mahbub Uz Zaman said there were around 160,000 Bangladeshi workers in Singapore.

The spotlight also fell on how they lived here and interacted with one another. Dormitory operators agreed that if the workers staying in their quarters were well integrated, it could prevent them from getting radicalised.

Mr Mohamed Abdul Jaleel, the founder and chief executive of dormitory operator Mini Environment Service, said how dormitories are run can influence the behaviour of the workers who stay there.

"It is inevitable that those of the same nationalities will prefer to live together, but we make sure that they share common spaces like sports and recreation facilities," he said.

About 8,000, or one-third, of the 23,500 foreign workers who stay in the three dormitories that he runs are from Bangladesh.

"They get their own space for prayers, but they know that they are part of a larger community," he added.

He will be briefing his staff to monitor how the foreign workers react to the news of the arrests.

Mr Kelvin Teo, chief operating officer of Centurion Dormitories, said an operator's role in integrating the different nationalities of foreign workers extended beyond the dormitories.

"We have to bring them to the larger community," he said. "For example, we took a group of 100 workers to participate in The Straits Times Run last year."

Mr Yeo Guat Kwang, chairman of foreign worker advocacy group Migrant Workers' Centre, urged employers and the public not to let the arrests taint their impression of foreign workers.

"The vast majority of foreign workers are law-abiding and hard-working," said Mr Yeo. "Let us not tar them with the same brush."

The arrest and deportation of the 27 Bangladeshi nationals linked to terrorism showed the alertness of our law...
Posted by Wong Kan Seng on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The recent arrests of the radicalised workers is a clear reminder that Singapore is not immune to threats of extremism...
Posted by Grace Fu on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Counter-terrorism efforts should widen to include foreigners, say leaders
It does not mean being suspicious but to show concern and not let them be isolated, say leaders
By Rachel Au-Yong, The Straits Times, 21 Jan 2016

Efforts to counter extremism and radicalisation should be broadened to include foreigners, said community, political and religious leaders yesterday.

But this requires the involvement of all Singaporeans - Muslims and non-Muslims - and may also involve difficult discussions, they told The Straits Times.

Their comments follow the revelation yesterday that 27 Bangladeshi construction workers who were considering militant attacks abroad had been arrested here.

"The arrests clearly show that countering extremism in Singapore has to move beyond our main target audience, and also include foreigners," said Ustaz Mohamed Ali, vice-chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, which counsels terror detainees and counters radicalism.

"It's important for us to engage the foreign workers at mosques. We must not let them be isolated and dissociated from the community here."

At the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang which has about 2,000 Bangladeshi worshippers, for example, regular meetings are held between mosque leaders and some of these worshippers to keep abreast of teachings, as well as to see how they can help with maintaining the mosque.

Singapore Mufti Mohamed Fatris Bakaram, speaking to reporters after a forum on inter-faith relations, said there were challenges to monitoring foreigners in religious settings. Those arrested met at mosques regularly. But given the casual nature "of friends coming together in between prayers and asking each other about life and work... almost every occasion seems innocent", said Dr Fatris.

"But I think it's time now to be... more vigilant," he added.

Being vigilant, however, did not mean being suspicious of foreigners, he said. Rather, it involved showing concern for them and their interests, and how they felt about their work and families.

"That touch of mercy, compassion and love is what is needed. And that's not only the responsibility of the Muslim community but everyone in Singapore," he added.

Employers in the construction industry, where there are many Bangladeshi workers, could remind them not to lose sight of their goal of earning money for their families back home, said Mr Rajan Krishnan, chief executive of a civil engineering firm and a member of the National Steering Committee on Racial and Religious Harmony.

"The assurance has to be two ways. Employers have to show that we respect our foreign workers and that we need them for our worksites and country. Workers' focus should be on their work, not extremist ideology," he added.

Jurong GRC MP Rahayu Mahzam, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Home Affairs and Law, said Singapore had a robust security network, but this could be boosted by Singaporeans keeping an eye out for radicalised individuals in their midst.

That required Singaporeans, especially younger ones, to be more aware of the need to maintain religious harmony, she said.

"The situation has changed and the threat has evolved. So we need to have these conversations about religious harmony, and to be mature and not so easily offended. Otherwise, we'll succumb to the fear that terrorism aims to instil."

She also said her grassroots network has links with foreign worker dormitories in the area and she would tap these to see how to engage these workers better.

"But we must make sure we do not end up discriminating against workers. At the end of the day, most rational Singaporeans know this was the work of a few extreme individuals," she said.

The arrest of 27 Bangladeshi foreign workers in Singapore is another example on how our safety and security is not...
Posted by Amrin Amin on Wednesday, January 20, 2016

In a Facebook post, Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin said it was important Singaporeans do not tar Bangladeshis or Muslims with the same brush and regard them as terrorists.

"I have met many Bangladeshis in Singapore and they are good people. I am Muslim and I reject these extremist teachings. The extremists preach division and hatred. We are better than that."


While they were not planning any terrorist attacks in Singapore, and it is only a minority who subscribe to extremist teachings, the incident demonstrates growing tendencies towards religious extremism in the region, which could possibly undermine Singapore's national security and racial and religious harmony.

SFCCA fully supports the Singapore Government's actions to beef up national security. Singaporeans should also remain calm and be more vigilant against radical teachings and ideologies, (and) at the same time work hand in hand with the Government to safeguard our collective security.

- ''THE SINGAPORE FEDERATION OF CHINESE CLAN ASSOCIATIONS (SFCCA), in a statement following news of the arrests.


Yesterday, I made a speech about terrorism in the region. Today, MHA announced 27 Bangladeshis who have become radicalised and were planning attacks back home...

They were meeting at a mosque on a regular basis. I sometimes walk past this mosque.

They had materials on techniques of silent killing and videos on jihadist propaganda.

The videos showed young children training overseas with firearms.

While they were planning attacks outside Singapore, they could have easily changed their minds and attacked Singapore.

Our security agencies have done well in picking them up early. I had said yesterday that the threat of terrorism is real. We are getting daily reminders of that.

- MR K. SHANMUGAM, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, in a Facebook post.


I'm glad that the group consisting of 27 Bangladeshi workers have had their plans curbed before things happened. Because it takes only one criminal act by such a group to have a devastating impact on the social cohesion that we have built for many years.

- MUFTI FATRIS BAKARAM, on the arrest of the workers.

ISA arrests: Workers fear stigma and losing their jobs
By Aw Cheng Wei and Nilanjana Sengupta, Digital News Editor, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

Shock, shame and the fear of being stigmatised were felt by Bangladeshi workers yesterday, the day after the clandestine activities of their countrymen working in Singapore were made public.

Professionals especially were worried about their standing in Singapore society, saying they foresee locals becoming wary of them.

Said IT executive Maruf Kuzman, 36: "I don't want my local colleagues to think I could be up to no good... If they stay away from me, it will be hard to work together."

But blue-collar Bangladeshi workers, who are mainly in the construction and marine sectors, seemed more pained by a sense of shame.

Said construction supervisor Jul- fikar, 38, who goes by one name: "We come here to work, not create trouble. I am ashamed of their conduct.''

Like all the 25 Bangladeshis interviewed, he condemned the radicalised group, saying he neither subscribes to their violent beliefs nor condones their plans to launch terror attacks back home and in the Middle East.

Said marine worker Tutul Khan, 33: "We are not supposed to be doing political activities, just working and sending money home. They did not appreciate the chance to make money here.''

In the last two months, 27 Bangladeshi construction workers were arrested for planning terror attacks in their home country and in the Middle East. All were deported except one, who is in jail for trying to leave Singapore illegally.

The Bangladeshi community here is now looking at ways to raise awareness, especially among construction workers, of the laws of Singapore, said the president of the Singapore Bangladeshi Society, Mr Mohd Shahiduzzaman.

His organisation, whose 700 to 800 members are professionals, plans to work with the Bangladesh High Commission on it.

"We are concerned about how the larger Singaporean community will view us," he added.

Members had told him they are very worried about a possible backlash at work or in the community.

"We will do what we can to reach out and create more awareness about the Bangladeshi community,'' he added.

Bangladesh High Commissioner Mahbub Uz Zaman added: "Bangladeshis here are mostly peace-loving, law-abiding people. The extremists are a small segment and not representative."

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, writing in a Facebook post on Wednesday, reminded Singaporeans that the "majority of the foreign workers here contribute positively to the growth and development of our nation".

He added: "We must be careful not to let the actions of these radicalised foreign workers taint the positive contributions of other law-abiding foreign workers who live harmoniously amongst us."

Meanwhile, High Commission staff will continue to visit worker dormitories and carry out activities to educate workers on the dos and don'ts in Singapore. The High Commissioner said about 160,000 Bangladeshis work in Singapore's construction and marine sectors.

Many interviewed said extremist political and religious groups are common back home and they are aware of them. But finding one of their cells here shocked them.

Said construction worker Kazi Arif, 33, yesterday: "I was shocked. My colleagues and I got the news today at lunch. We just continued eating and then went back to work. We didn't talk too much about it.''

Most of the construction workers said they did not know about the arrests until the day after the news came out as they do not follow local media. But now, they worry their jobs are at risk because all the radicalised men were in construction.

A Manpower Ministry spokesmen told The Straits Times that Bangladesh remains an approved source country for foreign workers.

Said worksite supervisor Mohd Iqbal, 37: "We come here to work because we want money. We hope we don't lose our jobs."

Is it bankable? Yes, I am not sorry I cared more about safety and security of Singapore and fellow Singaporeans over...
Posted by Fabrications About The PAP on Friday, January 22, 2016

ISA arrests show need to raise vigilance, say Muslim leaders
They plan to do more to engage Bangladeshi worshippers, to warn them about radical ideology
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

Hours after the news broke on Thursday that a group of 27 radicalised Bangladeshi men had been arrested, members of the Assyakirin Mosque management board gathered for a regular meeting but they had a new topic: Review the way they operate.

Said Ustaz Suhaimi Mustar: "You have to monitor all classes, all groups in the mosque, you need to talk to them individually... We don't want this to happen here."

The mosque chairman was referring to the fact that the rogue Bangladeshis had used the premises of a few Singapore mosques to discuss their radical ideology.

Like him, mosque and Muslim community leaders interviewed yesterday said the discovery of the radical study group was a timely wake-up call to step up vigilance against extremists who distort Islamic teachings to justify violence.

The Ministry of Home Affairs had said the men, construction workers aged between 25 to 40, shared radical material discreetly and urged members to take up arms against the Bangladeshi government.

All but one of them were deported, the last serving a jail term for trying to leave Singapore illegally.

The news hit hard for a number of mosques like Assyakirin, the closest mosque for many Bangladeshi workers staying in nearby dormitories. Up to half the daily congregation is Bangladeshi, and many of them volunteer at the mosque. It also has a Bangladeshi board member.

On Friday afternoons, the mosque in Jurong West, which has a capacity of 6,000, has to hold two sessions, the second in Bengali. It also makes sure the Bangladeshi preachers are qualified.

As the number of Bangladeshi workers here grew in recent years to meet manpower needs, they have been welcomed in mosques as part of increasingly diverse congregations, said Mr Helmy Isa, director of mosques at the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).

He notes that Muis has been stepping up efforts to prevent radical teachings from taking root, and urged the community to be vigilant.

Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, in a Facebook post, said: "I appeal that we be more vigilant, whether against radical teachings and ideologies, or of any suspicious activities around us".

He hoped that people would also remain united and not discriminate against foreign workers.

Like Ustaz Suhaimi, a number of other mosque leaders now plan to do even more to engage foreign worshippers. They stress that the majority of Bangladeshis here denounce extremist leanings like those held by the radicalised study group.

Mr Abdul Rahim Kassim, secretary of the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang Road, which has a sizeable Bangladeshi congregation, said mosque leaders had always made sure they were in the loop on the activities of those at the mosque, including their twice-weekly classes.

"We have an open concept, we do classes in the prayer hall, the light is on, no secluded place for them to do what they want, " he said.

But in the wake of the reports, they plan to hold more discussions with Bangladeshi worshippers.

"We don't want them to stop coming to the mosque to pray out of fear of any kind of backlash," he said.

Further down Geylang Road, the Haji Mohd Salleh Mosque sees largely Bangladeshi worshippers.

Vice-chairman Haron Hamzah said workers who stay in the nearby lorongs pray at the mosque in groups of three to five, and attend religious classes in larger groups.

"We get to know the ones who lead each group and advise them, and we will look at ways to better reach out to them so they can help us reach the wider Bangladeshi community," he said. "Sometimes, when I meet them, I also tell them, 'This is Singapore, don't do anything bad, you come here to work to support your family.' "

Mr Abdul Halim Kader, who heads Muslim group Taman Bacaan, which has held seminars to educate youth against extremism, now plans to hold sessions to educate foreign workers about the dangers of radical ideology. "This is a gap, we have to have Bengali speakers to educate them," he added.

Ms Ng Siew Lam, chairman of the Geylang Serai Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, welcomed the assurance that Muslim leaders were being more watchful.

"Singaporeans do not see all Bangladeshis in the same light as those who were detained. Their radical views are not representative of the views of the majority of Muslims in Singapore and abroad," she said.

"We stand together in rejecting extremist ideologies, which have no place in multiracial and multi-religious Singapore."

Dhaka probe into how group became radicalised
Police say it is first case of large number of Bangladeshi workers becoming influenced abroad
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Bureau Chief In NewDelhi, The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

The group of 26 Bangladeshi nationals deported by Singapore for planning terror attacks back home is the first such instance of a large number of Bangladeshis becoming radicalised while working abroad, say police and security experts.

Dhaka police said the men, 14 of whom have been arrested and detained in jail, had gone to Singapore to work as construction workers to earn money to send home. The police are now investigating how the men became radicalised.

"This is the first such case. They don't have any (terrorist) background," Dhaka Metropolitan Police spokesman Maruf Hossain Sorder told The Straits Times.

Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country of 160 million people, has seen publishers and bloggers targeted - and some of them killed - by militant groups even as the government cracked down on far-right parties such as the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Since 2013, Bangladesh has executed leading Jamaat members who had been convicted of genocide during the Liberation struggle of 1971. The move angered many affiliated groups, which accused the government of waging a politically motivated campaign.

Members of the Bangladeshi group in Singapore also had grievances against their government over its actions against some Bangladeshi Islamic groups and leaders, according to the Singapore authorities. The men were found to have "a significant amount" of radical material, including books and videos of children undergoing paramilitary training with an Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flag in the background.

According to a Dhaka police official, Mr Mashrukur Rahman Khaled, the 14 men are so far found to have links with the Ansarullah Bangla Team militant group, but none with ISIS or Al-Qaeda.

Some analysts see the radicalisation of Bangladeshi workers abroad as a "new phenomenon". "The Singapore case is a big worry as this is a completely new phenomenon. These are working-class people," said Dr Shantanu Majumder, an associate professor at Dhaka University.

With millions of Bangladeshis working outside the country, analysts say it would be difficult for Bangladesh or any other country to keep track of citizens abroad.

Referring to the release of photos of the Bangladeshi men by the Singapore authorities, security analyst Md Abdur Rashid told The Straits Times: "I think this creates social pressure on others if they are thinking of getting involved in similar activities.

"If each and every government takes such strong steps, then we can succeed against terrorism."

As for the 12 men who were released after they returned to Bangladesh, the executive director of the Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies in Dhaka added: "While there is a probability that (they) may escape surveillance, there is also a possibility that their return to their families will help them lead a normal life. Because in Bangladesh, most families are not radicalised and there is an inherent resistance to violence."

Additional reporting by Nilanjana Sengupta

Radical groups in Bangladesh
The Straits Times, 22 Jan 2016

Analysts and people who knew some of the 27 Bangladeshi workers suggest they may have been influenced by three radical outfits in Bangladesh, namely:


Created in 2011, this banned militant group adheres to Al-Qaeda's ideology and is directly linked with Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Its objectives include the radicalisation of young people, inciting active participation in a local armed struggle and seeking control of areas in Bangladesh. It is believed to be behind a series of attacks on atheist bloggers in Bangladesh in recent months.


The largest Islamist political party in Bangladesh before its registration was cancelled in 2013, it is committed to the creation of an Islamic state with a syariah legal system and the outlawing of "un-Islamic" practices and laws.

The group was founded in 1941, and many of its leaders are accused of war crimes during the liberation war of Bangladesh in 1971. Several have been convicted by the country's International Crimes Tribunal.


An Islamist militant outfit led by Muhammad Asadullah Al-Ghalib, who has called for a struggle against "Islamic fallacies" and to bring about Islamic rule.

It is said to be a main source of terror financing in Bangladesh along with Jamaat-e-Islami, channelling funds for recruitment and training, and to establish mosques and madrasahs that help radicalise people.

Dhaka vows to thwart creation of terror hub
Minister says Bangladesh does not entertain terrorists; police still probing men deported from Singapore
By Nirmala Ganapathy, India Bureau Chief In New Delhi, The Sunday Times, 24 Jan 2016

The Bangladesh government has warned that it would not allow anyone to set up a terrorist hub within its borders.

This comes as police continue their investigations into a group of 26 Bangladeshi workers whom the Singapore authorities deported last month for plotting terror attacks in their own country.

Fourteen are currently detained in jail after they were arrested for having links with banned militant groups such as the Ansarullah Bangla Team. The remaining 12 were released but police are monitoring their movements.

The Bangladeshi authorities have said there was nothing to show the men had contact with terrorist groups before they left the country.

"When they were in Bangladesh, they were not connected (to any terror group). What they did in Singapore we do not know," Home Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Khan told The Sunday Times yesterday.

Since Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009, she has been cracking down on militant and terrorist groups in Bangladesh, a Muslim-majority country of 160 million people.

Sounding a stern warning, Mr Khan said: "We don't allow anybody to create a hub for terrorists. Bangladesh is a secular country and we do not entertain terrorists."

In the past three years, leading members of the far-right Jamaat-e Islami party, the country's biggest Islamist political group, have been hanged after being convicted of genocide during the Liberation struggle of 1971.

Amid the government crackdown, groups determined to convert Bangladesh into an Islamic nation with a syariah legal system have increasingly targeted publishers and secular bloggers, four of whom were murdered last year.

In announcing the arrests in Singapore, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the 27 Bangladeshi workers were planning terror attacks back home. All but one of these construction workers, aged between 25 and 40, were deported. The last man is serving a 12-week jail term in Singapore for trying to leave the country illegally after learning his friends had been arrested.

The men, who belonged to a closed religious study group, believed they should "wage armed jihad" against the Bangladeshi government and also donated money to entities believed to be linked to extremist groups back home.

A Dhaka police official provided some insight into the investigation under way to find out, among other things, how the men became radicalised.

"The men are from different parts of the country, so we are trying to find out their backgrounds," the police official said on condition of anonymity.

One of the 14 detained in Bangladesh is 40-year-old Ali Abdul, who had worked in Saudi Arabia before he went to Singapore. He worked in Singapore for 10 years, according to a local newspaper report.

Police in his hometown of Chuadanga said a background check showed that he had no prior record.

"He left Chuadanga more than 15 years ago. There is nothing about him in our history. He went to Saudi Arabia and then Singapore... He comes from a very poor family," local police superintendent Rashidul Hasan told The Sunday Times.

Shanmugam reassures law-abiding foreign workers they have nothing to fear
Nothing to fear if you shun terror, but he also warns that Govt will crack down on extremists
By Joanna Seow, The Sunday Times, 24 Jan 2016

Foreign workers in Singapore have nothing to fear as long as they keep to the law, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam said yesterday.

But if they dabble in extremist activities, they should "have no doubts" that the authorities will come down hard on them.

Just three days after news broke that the Internal Security Department had arrested 27 radicalised Bangladeshi construction workers, Mr Shanmugam said at a lunch for other workers from Bangladesh that Singapore relies on their work and appreciates them.

They would not get into trouble if they do not engage in politics, violence or illegal activities. "But if you engage in any of that, even if you intend to do it outside of Singapore, we will have no choice but to act against you," he said at the Khadijah Mosque in Geylang.

On Wednesday, the Government announced the arrests late last year of the 27 Bangladeshis who were plotting to launch terror attacks in their home country. The group, which supports the armed radical ideology of terrorist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, had been meeting at various mosques islandwide since 2013.

Mr Shanmugam yesterday told reporters that many workers at the lunch expressed worry about how the arrests of their countrymen would affect them.

He said: "I assured them, just stick to what you are doing, keep to the law, the law protects you."

He also told them that local mosques will continue to welcome them, if they want to pray and learn about the "universal message" of peace and brotherhood.

He warned Singaporeans against seeing all followers of Islam as terrorists, stressing that there is no reason to view local Muslims or foreign workers in a negative light.

He said he was told at the lunch that some children had said to their Muslim schoolmates: "You are Muslim, you are trouble, you are wrong, your religion is bad."

"We need to educate the wider Singaporean public that that is wrong. We focus on terrorism, and we deal with it. We deal with it as a community. If we start going down this route, of tarring people of Islam as terrorists, Singapore will be in trouble," Mr Shanmugam said, warning against Islamophobia.

When asked if security on migrant workers would be tightened, he said the Government would do "whatever we think is necessary" to keep Singapore safe, "whether that involves migrant workers, or visitors, or our own community".

Visited Khadijah Mosque today and met some Bangladeshi nationals who worship there.The majority of Bangladeshi...
Posted by K Shanmugam Sc on Saturday, January 23, 2016

About 30 of the mosque's 1,000 Bangladeshi worshippers were at the thank-you lunch for them.

Religious Rehabilitation Group member Ustaz Mohamed Feisal Hassan thanked them for their contributions to the mosque. He warned them about Facebook posts and videos used by radical groups to incite anger and recruit members, and advised them to be wary of radical teachers and propaganda.

One of the workers, Mr Manir Hosain, 33, who has been in Singapore for more than 10 years, said he was very worried for his community when he heard news of the arrests.

"It is very difficult for us. When we go out or go to the mosque, people say, 'Hey, you are from Bangladesh, the photos (of the radicalised workers), look like you'," said the electrical company worker. "Islam is not about terrorists... Not every person with a beard is a terrorist."

He added: "We come to Singapore to earn money, not for terrorism, not for politics."


Singapore is the most religiously diverse country in the world, and it is quite remarkable that we have maintained social harmony and peace.

And that is because every community has decided to live together. If we had lived separately, we would be a very different kind of society, and we would go in a very different way.

But because we decided to live together, we enjoy social harmony and peace.

It is important that new immigrants to Singapore, who might come from (countries with a) different racial and religious mix, also understand this and live the Singapore spirit and Singapore way.

- DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND COORDINATING MINISTER FOR NATIONAL SECURITY TEO CHEE HEAN, who visited the Al-Islah Mosque in Punggol yesterday, on new immigrants adapting to Singapore's multiracial and multi-religious way of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment