Monday 25 January 2016

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.

Singaporeans must not see all Muslims as terrorists

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".

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."

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


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.

NTUC, PA to stress need for calm, unity in case of attack
Important for S'poreans to resume normal life soon after a terror incident: Labour chief
By Joanna Seow, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2016

The labour movement and grassroots organisations will reach out to Singaporeans and foreigners working here to get across the message that should a terror attack happen, they must remain calm, help each other and pull together as one.

Labour chief Chan Chun Sing, who is also deputy chairman of the People's Association (PA), said this yesterday when asked by reporters about the response on the ground after last week's announcement that the Internal Security Department had late last year arrested 27 radicalised Bangladeshi workers planning armed violence abroad.

Mr Chan also said it is important that Singaporeans make sure "we resume life as normally as possible" after an incident.

"The greatest defeat that the terrorists can ever inflict on Singapore is one, to rob us of our normalcy, and two, to split our society. So long as we maintain our sense of normalcy and hold together as a society, then I think that the terrorists will not find it so easy to defeat Singapore and Singaporeans," he said.

Mr Chan, who is secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), was speaking to reporters at the opening of a facility to help domestic workers at Goldhill Centre in Thomson Road.

The call for unity was also made by several ministers last week. Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said that foreigners working here have no reason to fear tough action if they obey the law, but the authorities will come down hard should they engage in extremist activity.

Yesterday, Mr Chan said that since news of the arrests broke, NTUC and PA's network had gone around to get a sense of ground reactions.

They found there was a heightened awareness among Singaporeans of such security challenges, and that it was not just the job of the Home Team and Singapore Armed Forces to stay vigilant.

"Many people across all walks of life have now come to realise that this is a very real challenge that we must all tackle together," he said.

The NTUC and PA also found that, by and large, most Singaporeans are calm, but they too "want to know if there's something that they can do and should do in the unfortunate event something like that happens in Singapore".

This is why both organisations will emphasise the need to pull together and stay united. Mr Chan said it is also important to help foreigners here feel integrated and address their concerns, so that there is no room for any party to exploit any unhappiness they may feel.

"We may come from different backgrounds, we may have our differences, but let it not split us. The greater the challenge, the greater the threat to pull us apart, the greater must be our effort to try to understand each other and then pull together as a society," he said.

Mr Chan was also asked about concrete security measures, and said the Home Affairs Ministry will be announcing these in due course.

The important point, he said, was that everybody feels "we all can play a part in making sure that the terrorists don't defeat us by inflicting fear to disrupt our normalcy or by tearing us apart even without igniting a bomb".

"They can pull us apart if they seed discord, if they sow the seeds of suspicion amongst our different races, languages and religions. So we must never allow seeds of discord, seeds of suspicion to tear us apart even without a bomb going off," he said.

No fears here: Bangladeshis in Singapore on recent ISA arrests

Last Wednesday's news that 27 radicalised Bangladeshi construction workers had been arrested under the Internal Security Act marked the first time that a foreign terror cell has been uncovered here. It was also the largest security crackdown in Singapore in 15 years. Zhaki Abdullah speaks to Bangladeshis working in Singapore to find out how they feel the arrests will affect their community here.
The Sunday Times, 24 Jan 2016

'I am not doing anything wrong'

Mr Alamin, a general worker who holds informal weekly religious classes with a small group of his peers, was told by his boss to stop them for the time being, out of concern that he would be arrested by the authorities.

"I told him I was not doing anything wrong," said the bearded 40-year-old, who peppered his conversation with quotations from the Quran and the hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad).

Mr Alamin first came to Singapore in 1997 and has been working in the country since then.

He is a member of the Tablighi Jamaat, an informal international Muslim missionary movement founded in India in 1927.

He said the movement has had a positive impact on his life and allowed him to reconnect with his religion.

"When I first came to Singapore, I did not pray until I joined the Tablighi Jamaat," he said.

Though a regular congregant at the Angullia Mosque, one of the places where the detainees are believed to have met to plan attacks, Mr Alamin said he had never met any of them.

He added that extremists did not properly understand the teachings of Islam.

"The Prophet Muhammad did not teach us to be violent," said Mr Alamin.

"Our jihad is not to kill people, but to encourage them to do good deeds."

Mr Alamin, who is married with two children, plans to reconvene his informal religious classes, and does not fear any possible backlash against Bangladeshis in the wake of the recent arrests.

"Allah will protect me," he said.

'Most of us are here to earn a living'

Though an S-Pass holder, commercial officer Faruk Hossain has put down roots here.

The 33-year-old has worked in Singapore for the past 12 years and lives with his wife in a rented flat in Woodlands.

Mr Faruk said he has not experienced any discrimination since news of the arrests broke.

"Most of us are here just to work and earn a living," he said. "These people who get involved with terrorism have been brainwashed. They are only causing their families to suffer."

Mr Faruk said Ali Abdul, one of the 27 arrested, was his former colleague.

He described him as a "nice guy" and said he believed Ali was an unwitting accomplice.

"I don't think he was a mastermind, I think he just got involved with the wrong people."

He said he got word of Ali's capture last November, but did not know what he was arrested for.

"There were rumours that he had been caught for terrorism," said Mr Faruk, adding that the suspicions were only confirmed when news of the arrests was reported last Wednesday.

Mr Faruk does not believe the arrests will negatively impact Bangladeshis working here in the future.

He admitted though that he was aware of the negative sentiments some locals had towards the Bangladeshi community and other foreigners working here.

"Some people think that we are here to take their jobs while other people see us as their colleagues, here to help them and work with them," said Mr Faruk. "This is more a reflection of their own mindsets than of us."

'In Singapore, people of all religions get along'

Though Bangladesh's population is more than 80 per cent Muslim, 33-year-old Kajal Bepary is more comfortable practising his religion in Singapore.

"In Bangladesh, you can get killed going to the mosque," said Mr Kajal, referring to an attack by extremists on a Shi'ite mosque last year, as well as other incidents of religiously inspired violence.

Mr Kajal, a Sunni who has worked in manufacturing here for seven years, added: "In Singapore, people of all religions, whether Muslim, Christian or Buddhist, can get along."

He said that after the arrests here, non-Muslim colleagues asked him why his countrymen would want to kill others.

"I told them that their actions don't reflect the majority of Bangladeshis or the teachings of Islam."

Mr Kajal, who studied in a madrasah (religious school) while in Bangladesh, occasionally teaches the Quran to a small group of his peers in the dormitory where they live.

He admits that due to his hectic work schedule, he is not always able to make it to the mosque for Friday prayers. However when he does, his boss, a non-Muslim, drives him and his colleagues to the mosque and picks them up after prayers.

"He is very understanding," said Mr Kajal, who plans to stay in Singapore if given the chance, and does not expect any negative reactions to Bangladeshis from people of other nationalities.

"It is very peaceful here," he added.

'Most Bangladeshis are peaceful people'

Technician Wazed Uddin believes the 27 arrested Bangladeshis were motivated by the turbulent political situation in their country.

"The government is not supportive of Islam," said the 28-year-old, who has been working in Singapore since 2009.

Bangladesh is currently governed by the secular Bangladesh Awami League, headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The government has executed several members of the opposition Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami since 2013 for their involvement in war crimes during the 1971 liberation struggle

The executions were viewed by some as being politically motivated, and they are believed to be a factor in the rise of extremist violence in recent years.

"I think the ones who were arrested were members of the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT)," said Mr Wazed, referring to the banned Bangladeshi extremist group.

It is believed to be responsible for numerous incidents of violence in Bangladesh since 2013, including the high-profile murders of four atheist bloggers last year. Bangladeshi authorities believe the 27 arrested were influenced by the ABT.

Mr Wazed said he is not afraid of being repatriated to Bangladesh, and does not believe there will be any restrictions placed on his countrymen coming to Singapore to work.

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