Foreign workers can fight terror too

The news that five maids working here were radicalised through social media in the past two years has rattled employers and employment agencies.

It is no surprise, considering how closely Singaporeans live with their maids.

In the same period, another 65 foreign workers were investigated by the Ministry of Home Affairs over terrorism fears.

The ministry revealed these numbers after anti-terror police in Indonesia made several arrests over suspected terror activities recently.

One of those rounded up was Dian Yulia Novi, 27, who was allegedly planning a suicide attack. She had worked here between 2008 and 2009 as a maid.

But a look at some numbers may provide comfort and perspective - while five maids here were radicalised in the past two years, they were out of a total of 237,100 maids in Singapore.

Statistics from the Ministry of Manpower also showed that the 65 foreign workers probed to be a drop in the ocean, with the total foreign workforce here at more than 1.4 million people.

What is clear from this is that the majority of foreign workers here are law-abiding and are here to make a living to support their families back home.

The few who have fallen prey to radical ideology online are not representative of all foreign workers here, and we should be careful not to tar everyone with the same brush.

Singapore is a small island of 5.6 million people, and the foreign workforce here is a key part of the population.

We should include foreign workers in our fight against terror instead of viewing them with suspicion.

This means employers and religious leaders should redouble efforts to educate the workers on the dangers of extremist rhetoric and how they can navigate the online morass where such information lurks.

Those working alongside these workers can also do more to help them feel a part of society, no matter how temporary their stay.

This article was first published on Dec 22, 2016.
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