SINGAPORE - A Singaporean man was arrested on Saturday (April 2) for attacking three students from a full-time Islamic religious school the day before, the police have revealed in a statement.
Police were informed of a case at about 7.35am on Friday (April 1), in which a man allegedly caused hurt to three female students of Madrasah Al Maarif Al Islamiah in three separate incidents near Paya Lebar MRT station.
The students, aged 14 to 16, were on their separate ways to the madrasah when the 48-year-old Chinese man hurt them.
Said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Investigations & Intelligence) and Director of the Criminal Investigation Department Tan Chye Hee in the statement: "The police take a stern view of acts that could threaten the racial and religious harmony in Singapore. Any person who caused hurt to others on the basis of their race or religion will be dealt with severely in accordance with the law."
On Friday morning, the school's discipline mistress made a Facebook post about the incident, saying that the three students had been physically attacked by an unknown middle aged man at Paya Lebar MRT Station at around 7.20am.
The first victim was kicked on the left thigh, she said. The second was hit by a plastic bag containing a heavy item and the third was hit in the same manner on one of her eyes.
In the post, which was widely shared on social media, the teacher added that a police report had been made and appealed for eyewitnesses.
Police said it had received a call for assistance around 7.35am at Lorong 39 Geylang - the address of the victims' school.
In a separate Facebook post on Friday afternoon, the madrasah thanked all who had contacted it out of concern for the students' well-being.
"The affected students have been counselled and parents have been contacted," it said.
It was an incident that sparked strong condemnation online.
On Friday, Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam wrote on Facebook that he had asked the police to investigate the matter, adding that "the motives for the attack (were) not clear" at that time.
Parliamentary Secretary for Home Affairs Amrin Amin also posted on social media, calling it a "serious matter".
He added that he was worried for the affected students, urging the public not to jump to conclusions on the matter.
The incident took place two days after Mr Shanmugam visited another madrasah, calling on Singaporeans to reach out to their Muslim neighbours and build social cohesion, following a recent string of terror attacks globally that threatens to fray the trust among communities here.
On Saturday night, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said on Facebook that "we should stand together against all forms of violence against innocent persons".
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim posted on Facebook earlier on Saturday, saying that he was "dismayed to hear of the attack", which he called "totally unacceptable".
"We should never tolerate any forms of aggression towards anyone, especially the innocent. The perpetrator must be brought to justice," he added. "We must stay calm and united and not let this incident divide us."
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu wrote on Facebook: "An attack on the innocent can never be condoned."
She added: "My thoughts are with the young girls, and I hope they recover soon."