Books and Brainwash in Singapore

Tanveer Hossain, back from Singapore and Malaysia

They write provocative things against Jews and people of other religions

In a place like Singapore, where there is no prominent Muslim organisation for Bangladeshis or any influential cleric who they can follow, many of the overworked expatriates struggle to find spiritual comfort in their everyday life.

As the pent-up stress and frustration of living in a foreign culture continues to grow, Islamist radical groups swoop in to brainwash these vulnerable expatriate workers into believing that hatred and violence are paths to salvation.

In the city-state of Singapore, most militant propaganda are spread through books that speak of radicalised interpretations of Islam, the Dhaka Tribune found during a recent visit there.

“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,” a young Bangladeshi expat told the Dhaka Tribune at Mustafa Centre, a hotspot for local Bangladeshis.

“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 other young men who also spoke with the Dhaka Tribune at the Mustafa Centre said many Bangladeshis take these books back to their rooms. The books are written in a way that anyone getting a glimpse would be wanting to read more, they said.

Fearing for their safety, the men requested that their voices not be recorded and that their names be excluded from the news report.

Asked to describe what is written in these books, they said the authors mentally blackmail the Bangladeshis, writing provocative things against Jews and people of other religions. Sometimes references from the Qur’an are mentioned and words in Arabic are included.

Even though no one understood what the Arabic words meant, many Bangladeshis believed whatever translation or interpretation was included in the books.

“The books push Muslims to boycott Jewish products and offer namaz, and speak about jihad,” one of them said.

Some of the youths, however, had a different explanation about the source of the books.

They said these books might be distributed by Bangladeshi shop owners around Mustafa Centre to encourage Bangladeshis to boycott Singaporean products and buy stuff from their own stores instead.

Several of the men also voiced their opposition against such books.

“In Bangladesh, such books would have been known for spreading militancy. But since there is no such scope in Singapore, these books are now spreading fast,” one of them said.

So far, at least 35 Bangladeshi nationals have been arrested in Singapore in connection with plotting terrorist activities.

Earlier this month, a Singapore court convicted four Bangladeshi workers for financing terrorism and sentenced them to jail terms between two and five years.

‘Malaysian students being targeted’

A different scenario was found in Malaysia, where university students told the Dhaka Tribune that they were the main brainwashing targets for extremists. Speaking on condition of anonymity, several of them said they receive many anti-Semitic messages regularly.

The Bangladeshi students who regularly offered prayers and fasted were the ones usually targeted by militant recruiters, they said.

But since it was revealed that Nibras Islam – one of the killers from the Dhaka terror attack – used to be a student in Malaysia, everyone has been on high alert, they added.

The founder and incumbent president of Bangladesh Students Union Council, Mohammad Mohiuddin Mahi, told the Dhaka Tribune that monitoring of Bangladeshi students in Malaysia has been increased since the July 1 attack.

“We have news that around 8,000 Bangladeshi students in 60 private, two public and six semi-public universities in Malaysia are being monitored. Malaysian police are secretly collecting information on where these students were living and who they had contact with, as well as tracking their mobile phones.

“We have Bangladeshi student organisations at 29 Malaysian universities. Through these organisations, we have asked all expatriate Bangladeshis to stay alert,” Mahi

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