The High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Singapore has urged his compatriots here to report their peers if they suspect them to be extremists.
"Bangladeshis have a responsibility and obligation to report radical behaviour. It is our duty to keep to the laws of the country that we are working and living in," said High Commissioner Mahbub Uz Zaman yesterday. Noting that "Dhaka has a zero tolerance policy towards terrorism", he said Bangladeshis here should not be afraid to speak up or approach the High Commission for help.
Mr Zaman gave the advice in an interview with The Straits Times, after news broke yesterday that eight radicalised men, who called their group the "Islamic State in Bangladesh", were detained under the Internal Security Act last month.
Five other Bangladeshis were repatriated after investigations found that they "possessed and/or proliferated jihadi-related materials, or supported the use of armed violence in pursuit of a religious cause", said the Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday.
One of the deported men, Rana Miah, had shown signs of radical religious behaviour a few years ago, said a Bengali newspaper that caters to the 160,000-strong Bangladeshi community here.
HERE TO MAKE MONEY
Most workers here just want to earn more money so their families can have a better life back home. It is expensive for them to come here to work, so they appreciate the opportunity.
MR MOHD SHAHIDUZZAMAN, vice-president of the Bangladesh Business Chamber of Singapore.
FOCUS ON WORK
I don't have time to think about getting involved with terrorists. I am too tired from working.
MR ANISUR RAHMAN, construction worker.
The radicalised men are not representative of our peace-loving, hard-working community. We hope that Singaporeans will not discriminate against us.
MR ZILLUR RAHMAN SIDDIQUI, chairman of the Singapore Bangladesh Society.
Rana had fought with other Bangladeshis as he tried to convince them to change their way of praying, the Banglar Kantha newspaper reported last Friday. He also believed it was permissible for them to eat turtles, a practice most Muslims frown upon.
Banglar Kantha editor AKM Mohsin said workers at Penjuru dormitory, where Rana was believed to be staying, had told him of the arrest made early last month.
Mr Mohsin said he often urged workers who show up at his community events, such as poetry weekends, to use music and art to express themselves. "They can also talk to each other about their problems in a safe space," he said.
For the last few years, Mr Zaman and other leaders of the Bangladeshi community here have been visiting dormitories twice a month. During the visits, they encourage workers to focus on their jobs and remind them that "they are not allowed to create unrest", said Mr Zaman.
Yesterday, others in the community condemned the radicalised men, and urged Singaporeans not to generalise about Bangladeshis here based on "the small group's behaviour".
Mr Mohd Shahiduzzaman, vice-president of the Bangladesh Business Chamber of Singapore, said: "Most workers here just want to earn more money so their families can have a better life back home."
This is true for construction worker Anisur Rahman, 28, who said: "I don't have time to think about getting involved with terrorists. I am too tired from working."
Another construction worker, Mr Hossain Akther, 32, said: "We come to Singapore to work and earn money, not make trouble."
Mr Zillur Rahman Siddiqui, chairman of the Singapore Bangladesh Society, said: "The radicalised men are not representative of our peace-loving, hard-working community. We hope that Singaporeans will not discriminate against us."
Agreeing, Geylang Serai Citizens Consultative Committee chairman Eric Wong encouraged Singaporeans "to keep an open mind" as radicals cut across religion, age, gender and race. Foreigners and locals "have to work together as a team to look out for irregularities (in our society)", he said.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh will beef up its screening process to make sure that incoming workers "are good people", said Mr Zaman, who added that the Bangladeshi police have also been informed to conduct checks on suspected extremists.
"We are fully cooperating with the security agencies here and have been providing information to the authorities," he said.