NEW YORK - Singapore is carefully watching the unfolding conflicts in Iraq and Syria for any impact they may have on the Republic's Muslim community, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday.
"You may think it's a long way away, but things in the Middle East have a way of sending out long-distance vibrations and reverberations which can affect us in Southeast Asia," he told reporters at an interview towards the end of his week-long working visit to the United States.
Noting reports of Malaysians and Indonesians who have gone to join the conflict in Syria, Mr Lee said there is a danger that Singaporeans may also be "led astray".
"I think Singaporeans are also exposed to the same material on the Internet, they may have friends, they may have contacts, and they may also be led astray," he said.
If Iraq also becomes destabilised and lawless, the problem "will be magnified considerably", Mr Lee added.
"These are very violent environments, people are fighting, killing one another, bombing, committing suicide bombings," he said.
"And if people go there and fight, and after that they come back, some will come back, what happens? They bring back the ideas, the passions, the skills, maybe the equipment, and that's big trouble."
Governments in Europe, the United States and Asia are worried about this happening, Mr Lee added. "It's a problem which we in Singapore should watch carefully too."