Workers advised against radicalism

Dorm operator, Muslim groups launch outreach sessions for foreign workers

When news broke that 27 Bangladeshi nationals were arrested for terror activities, businessman Mohamed Abdul Jaleel was concerned that others living in the dormitories he ran could be similarly influenced.

That was in January.

Yesterday, a group of Islamic religious leaders he had contacted began their bid to educate Bangladeshi workers on the dangers of radical ideology. The new initiative, community engagement and religious guidance for foreign workers, was attended by about 300 workers at a dormitory in Kaki Bukit.

"We see this as a way to educate the workers and ensure they are not misguided by these ideologies," said Mr Jaleel, chief executive officer of MES Group, which runs three dormitories for foreign workers.

Said Ustaz Mohamed Ali, vice- chairman of the Religious Rehabilitation Group (RRG) that conducted the hour-long session: "We hope to engage them not only at dormitories, but also mosques and elsewhere."

The RRG counsels terror detainees and conducts public education on the dangers of extremism for the wider community. The need to also reach out to foreign workers has become more urgent with the detention last month of another eight Bangladeshi workers for plotting attacks in their home country.

Those arrested had met outside their dormitories, but community leaders here feel dormitories are a suitable venue to educate workers.

Bangladeshis make up about 40 per cent of the 4,300 residents at the Kaki Bukit dormitory, and future talks will be held at MES' other three dormitories, in Jurong.

Ustaz Mohamed gave yesterday's talk in English, with translation into Bengali by a Singapore Bangladesh Society member. Ustaz Mohamed stressed that groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have misused religious concepts to support its ideology of terror, and that the Singapore Government takes a hard stance on all terrorism-related activities. He advised them against joining any deviant religious groups and to report any suspicious matters to the authorities.

Pamphlets by the RRG in English and Bengali were also distributed. These highlight Islamic scholars declaring that ISIS' actions are against Islam, which stresses compassion, peace and respect for others.

Mr Naseer Ghani, president of the Singapore Kadayanallur Muslim League that worked with MES, RRG and Jamiyah Singapore to organise the programme, said it is important that such efforts help distinguish religiosity from radicalism.

Electrical engineer Kawsar, 28, welcomed the effort to educate his peers on the dangers of extremism, and added that he would not hesitate to report any terror activities.

"If I see people making problems, I will call the police," he said.

There are plans for similar sessions in other languages for workers of different nationalities. MES is also ready to work with other dormitory operators.

"At the end of the day, it's about Singapore's safety," said Mr Jaleel.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 21, 2016, with the headline 'Workers advised against radicalism'. Print Edition | Subscribe