Shanmugam warns against Islamophobia, dispels fears of Bangladeshis

Very strict action will be taken against those who use religion for extremist purposes.

Law-abiding Bangladeshi should have no concern over the arrest and deportation of 27 of their compatriots over the last few months, Singapore's Home and Law Minister K Shanmugam has said.

"They have come here to work to benefit their families, stick to that. And as long as they stick to that, they will be protected and nothing will happen to them," the minister said at a luncheon gathering with the Bangladeshi community at the Khadijah Mosque on Saturday.

The home ministry had said earlier in the week 27 Bangladeshis suspected of having links with Islamic State and Al-Qaeda were arrested and deported.

The alleged terror sympathisers were detained in November and December. The home ministry said members of the group routinely met a mosque and had considered carrying out armed attacks overseas. Investigations revealed they did not intend to attack Singapore but were planning jihadi style strikes in the Middle East and Bangladesh.

"Of course there is some concern among them as to whether harm is coming because 27 of their fellow workers have been detained and repatriated. The answer is no. They stick to what they do, nothing will happen," the minister reassured, according to Channel News Asia.

However, the minister said "very strict action" will be taken against those who use religion for extremist purposes.

Investigations had revealed that the arrested men, who worked in the construction industry, were being primed by their handlers to eventually return to Bangladesh and join the growing terror network in the country. Bangladesh has recently seen a surge in jihadi-inspired attacks on free thinkers and bloggers.

"Whether they think of attacking Singapore, or attacking Bangladesh or any other country, if they planned that here, they discuss it here, we will find out. We will take very strict action against them. They should have no doubts about it," Shanmugam said.

He also cautioned against "Islamophobia" in Singapore. "We need to educate the wider Singaporean public that that is wrong. We focus on terrorism and we deal with it, and 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.