In July this year, an Indonesian think-tank published a report which warned of a potential terror threat posed by Indonesian domestic helpers currently working across Asia, as the Islamic State (IS) has been working aggressively to recruit them as jihadists in recent years.
The report from the Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) cited Hong Kong as an example, saying it is likely that 43 Indonesian domestic helpers working in the city may have been successfully wooed and radicalized by IS recruiters.
In my opinion, IPAC’s warning does deserve our attention, since Indonesian workers in Hong Kong being drawn to Islamic extremism is not totally beyond the bounds of possibility, even though such numbers might appear insignificant compared to the overall 150,000 Indonesian maid population in the city.
It is because as the world’s most populous Muslim-majority country, Indonesia is home to radical religious groups, which, over the years, have commanded a huge audience in the country.
And the problem is compounded by the fact that Indonesia, like many other countries, has also seen the rise of populist and ultra-nationalist sentiments in recent years.
Under such an atmosphere, it is not entirely impossible that some Indonesian domestic helpers in Hong Kong who are mistreated by their employers and have difficulty integrating into local society, and who can’t do anything about that but seek refuge in the cyberworld, could be lured and radicalized by IS recruiters through the internet.
To many people in Hong Kong, it might sound a bit far-fetched that the workers who prepare their meals and pick up their kids from school every day could pose a security threat. However, in Singapore, it has indeed already become a very real and imminent issue.
At the end of 2015, 27 migrant workers from Bangladesh were identified by the Singaporean law enforcement as Islamic extremists and deported. And last year the Singaporean authorities arrested eight Bangladesh migrant workers, who provided funding for IS members active in Bangladesh, on a charge of plotting terrorist attacks against their home country.
Nevertheless, I also feel compelled to stress that even though the suspicions of radicalization of a handful of Indonesian maids in Hong Kong might be well-founded, we must not allow the fear to get out of proportion to the actual risk.
We must bear in mind that that the overwhelming majority of the Indonesian domestic workers in Hong Kong are peace-loving and law-abiding people.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept 21
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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