The Home Affairs Ministry revealed today that it has deported 15 Bangladesh nationals over social media posts made in response to last month’s French terror attacks and charged one under the Internal Security Act.
While the Singaporean authorities did not elaborate further on the content of the posts, made following a French magazine’s controversial republication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, they said they had “incited violence or stoked communal unrest.”
“There have also been attacks against French/Western interests elsewhere, such as in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and Vienna, Austria. In addition, a palpable anti-France climate has developed in several countries, as seen in large protests and calls for boycotts, as well as an uptick in terrorist rhetoric online,” the ministry said today.
Through heightened surveillance, the authorities said they found a Malaysian intending to engage in armed violence in either Syria or Palestine, and another Bangladeshi, Ahmed Faysal, 26, who had been donating funds to an Islamic militant group in Syria and possessed knives meant for attacks on Hindus in his home country. The Malaysian was repatriated and Ahmed arrested under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention without trial.
The deported Bangladeshis mostly worked in construction and were identified through stepped-up social media surveillance in the wake of last month’s terror attacks in France coupled with the uproar that’s spread to other countries over French President Emmanuel Macron’s defense of the magazine.
“In view of the deteriorating security situation, the Home Team has been on heightened alert since early September, and had also stepped up its security activities to pre-empt copycat attacks in Singapore,” it added.
Another 21 people are under investigation, 14 of whom are Singaporean. Some of them left comments in the same online discussion threads.
“These individuals had attracted security attention for suspected radical inclinations, or for making comments which incite violence, or stoke communal unrest,” the statement continued, adding that most had in some form supported the Oct. 16 beheading of a French schoolteacher or violence against Macron or French people in general over magazine Charlie Hebdo’s republication of images considered deeply offensive to many Muslims. It suggested that some were under investigation for expressing Islamophobic views.
In September, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad as the trial began for those accused of murdering 12 at its Paris newsroom. French middle school teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by an extremist after he shared the images at his school.
Macron defended magazine’s decision in the name of freedom of speech, provoking outrage in Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia and inviting boycotts of French products.