Attack on madrasah students: Singapore govt acts swiftly to dispel Islamophobia concern

The 48-year-old attacker, Koh Weng Onn, was arrested and will be charged with committing a rash act and voluntarily causing hurt.

Singapore authorities acted swiftly to address concerns among Malay Muslim community after three female madarsah students were attacked near Paya Lebar MRT Station in spate incidents.

The attacker, a 48-year-old man identified as Koh Weng Onn, was arrested and will be charged with committing a rash act and voluntarily causing hurt.

Chan Chun Sing, minister in the Prime Minister's Office, visited the neighborhood where the attack took place and held a ministerial community gathering.

Meanwhile Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam said it was early to say if the attack was linked to Islamophobia. "We do not know the detailed facts, the motives, and should wait for the investigations to be completed. We should avoid speculation on the motives," the minister said in a Facebook post.

Minister Chan had a closed-door discussion with Khadijah Mosque authorities to reassure the community of the measures taken to cadres the concerns. Chan also met more than 100 people during the ministerial visit, including representatives from the mosque and temples as well as neighborhood associations.

"Any attack on any student in Singapore is wrong. And definitely, you don't attack people in Singapore in that manner, and definitely you don't attack people because of race, language or religion. We don't condone this," the minister said.

Meanwhile, the brother of the attacker offered apologies to the Malay Muslim community, saying the family was worried that something like this was bound to happen.

The TODAY newspaper said Muhammad Johan Koh, a Muslim convert, called its offices to offer apologies to the community and said his brother was suffering from mental disturbances.

"We were always afraid that something like this would happen one day," he said, adding that Koh was admitted to the Institute of Mental Health in the 1990s but refused treatment.

Girls-only Islamic school

The Muslim girls, aged between 14 and 16 were going to the Madrasah Al Maarif Al Islamiah, a top girls-only Islamic school, when the Singaporean Chinese man attacked them. They were attacked in separate incidents.

While one student was kicked in the left thigh the other two were hit with a plastic bag containing a heavy item, the New Paper reported.

Home Minister Shanmugam highlighted the fact that the incident happened just a couple of days after he had spoken out about the dangers of Islamophobia.

"People have asked me if this was an Islamophobic attack. I had specifically warned about Islamophobia, on Wednesday (March 30) - two days before this incident. It can be a cancer that destroys the soul of our country. We cannot tolerate that and MHA will act," he said.

Yaacob Ibrahim, minister in charge of Muslim Affairs, asked people to remain calm and condemned the attack.

"We must stay calm and united, and not let this incident divide us. Let us pray that our young students will recover from this unfortunate incident," he said.