Singaporeans must not see all Muslims as terrorists: Shanmugam

Mr K Shanmugam (centre) mingling with some Bangladeshi workers at the Khadijah Mosque on Jan 23, 2016.
Mr K Shanmugam (centre) mingling with some Bangladeshi workers at the Khadijah Mosque on Jan 23, 2016.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Singaporeans must not see all followers of Islam as terrorists, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam said on Saturday (Jan 23).

Whether foreign workers or local Muslims, there is no reason to view the entire religion or everyone who practices that religion in a different way, he said, speaking to the media at a lunch event at Khadijah Mosque in Geylang.

His comments came after news on Wednesday (Jan 20) that 27 radicalised Bangladeshi construction workers were arrested last year under the Internal Security Act.

Investigations showed that the group, which had been meeting since 2013, supported the armed jihad ideology of terrorist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Mr Shanmugam said he was told during the lunch that there were school children saying to Muslim children "you're 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," he said.

When asked if the authorities would tighten security on migrant workers, Mr Shanmugam said he did not want to go into operational details, but said the Government would do "whatever we think is necessary" to keep Singapore safe.

"You must assume that my fundamental concern, the reason why we are elected is to keep Singapore safe and secure... And whether that involves migrant workers, or visitors, or our own community, I think it would be irresponsible for us not to take steps that we think are necessary."

Also addressing around 30 Bangladeshi foreign workers gathered for the appreciation lunch organised by the mosque, Mr Shanmugam assured them that as long as they kept to the letter of the law in Singapore, they would be protected by it.

"We appreciate what you do, we rely on the work that you do, and our laws protect you."

He added that 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."