A Bangladeshi publication Dhaka Tribune has claimed that radical groups have been targeting foreign workers from Bangladesh at the Mustafa Centre in Syed Alwi Road. The writer of the article ‘Books and brainwash in Singapore‘, Tanveer Hossain, said that one reason why the Bangladeshis in Singapore are vulnerable to radicalisation is because there are no prominent Muslim organisation for Bangladeshis or any influential cleric who they can follow here. The writer who visited Singapore to write his report claims that the fact that foreign workers here are stressed and frustrated is another reason why radicalisation may appeal to them.
A Bangladeshi working here told the writer: “It is easier to brainwash those of us who live in a foreign land. It is because we do not have any organisation here. We do not have any Pir [religious preacher] or religion-based group. So, different kinds of books are often distributed among us. Even last Sunday [July 3], several thousands books were distributed in the Mustafa Centre area. A group of young men came and quickly distributed these books among everybody. One of the books is titled ‘Uphold Islam even in a foreign land.’”
Several others fearing for their safety, spoke to the publication anonymously. The arrest of the 35 Bangladeshis here in connection with plotting terrorist activities, and the conviction of four Bangladeshi workers for financing terrorism, have also spooked the community.
They said that the books were written in a manner to entice readers to explore the topics further. The content of the books “mentally blackmail the Bangladeshis, writing provocative things against Jews and people of other religions,” one interviewed said.
Many Bangladeshis do not understand the Quranic and Arabic references in the books, but believed whatever translation or interpretation was included in the books.
Some believed that the books were actually distributed by the shops catering to the Bangladeshi community in that area because they wanted the community to patronise their stalls instead of the Singaporean ones. “The books push Muslims to boycott Jewish products and offer namaz, and speak about jihad,” one of them said.
Others claimed that in Bangladesh, the books would have been easily identified as hate material and of spreading militant propaganda of Islam, but in Singapore it appeals to the overworked workers who struggle to find spiritual comfort in their everyday life.
The threat that radical Islamic groups are swooping in to brainwash this vulnerable community into believing that hatred and violence are paths to salvation, is a real one claimed the writer.