Singapore Islamic religious teacher jailed for molesting married student

For assault or the use of criminal force with the intent to outrage the modesty of a married woman, a 73-year-old religious teacher in Singapore was jailed 16 months April 11, 2019. — TODAY file pic
For assault or the use of criminal force with the intent to outrage the modesty of a married woman, a 73-year-old religious teacher in Singapore was jailed 16 months April 11, 2019. — TODAY file pic

SINGAPORE, April 12 — An Islamic religious teacher, or ustaz, told a married woman that she was cursed by black magic and molested her while pretending to cure her of the affliction.

For assault or the use of criminal force with the intent to outrage modesty, the 73-year-old was jailed 16 months yesterday.

The woman, 36, who cannot be named by court order, was a student of his, and he was her family friend for more than 10 years. She and her friend, 33, had been going for classes with him for a couple of years.

The court heard that the woman regarded the ustaz as she would a grandfather and, out of respect, would usually greet him by kissing his hand.

Sometime in 2015, she approached him to help her improve her recitation of the Qur’an and he began teaching her and her friend every Saturday afternoon in a classroom on the third floor of a mosque.

In August 2017, during one such lesson, he told the woman that someone who was unhappy with her may have performed black magic on her, because she had not been able to conceive after nine years of marriage.

He asked her to show him her palms and to also roll up the sleeves of her blouse to the elbow so that he could examine her lower arms.

Pointing to her veins, he told her that her blood was not flowing properly, that it was blocked by something.

He then said that he would cure her by breaking the jinx and told her to take a knife and a lime to class the week after. He also told her not to inform her family about what he had told her.

The woman did not tell her family or husband as she was frightened and did not want to worsen the situation.

The following week, the ustaz told the woman that one of her husband’s relatives might have “done something” to her because the relative did not like her and wanted to matchmake her husband to someone else.

Saying that he could prove this, he went on to cut the lime and rubbed it on the woman’s palms. He told her to examine the veins on the forearms but both women did not notice anything unusual.

The ustaz told the woman that there was “something in (her)” that had been there for a while and was preventing her from conceiving, and offered to get rid of the “thing” in her.

He told the woman’s friend to switch off the lights at the back of the classroom and step out to keep a lookout and to prevent anybody else from entering.

After her friend left the room, he took the woman to a corner at the back of the classroom where the window blinds were closed. There, he asked her to lift up the front of her blouse, touched her chest and muttered something under his breath. He also instructed her to put her hands under his shirt and do the same, which she did.

After a while, the woman realised that something was wrong, pushed him away and pulled her clothing back on.

She told him that what they were doing did not feel right, but the ustaz remained calm and asked why she was stopping him from helping her.

He then called the woman’s friend back into the classroom and they continued with the Qur’an recital class.

After the lesson, the ustaz told the woman not to inform her family about what had happened as they should try to solve her problem first.

That same day, the woman sought a consultation with a homeopathy clinic, where the practitioner told her that she was fine. She reported the incident to the police that night after consulting a relative.

In arguing for a jail sentence of not more than 11 months, the ustaz’s lawyer Gino Hardial Singh asked District Judge Carol Ling to consider his client’s poor health. He said that the ustaz was suffering from coronary artery disease, diabetes and a degenerative spinal condition, among several other medical conditions.

He also said that the incident was not premeditated and that the ustaz had been “unable to explain what came over him”.

He added that the ustaz’s admission of guilt before the case had gone to trial, as well as his compensation of S$5,000 to the woman, demonstrated his remorse.

He also asked District Judge Ling to consider the ustaz’s “stellar past” within the Muslim community.

However, Deputy Public Prosecutor (DPP) Muhamad Imaduddien said that while the ustaz has to take a “buffet of pills”, a lighter sentence should not be awarded on the basis of ill health, given that the prison would have facilities to attend to his medical conditions.

He added that the ustaz’s admission of guilt before the trial could not be taken as a sign of remorse as it came two days before the trial was set for March 4.

DPP Imaduddien also maintained that the incident was premeditated, given that the ustaz had given instructions for the woman to take the knife and the lime to class and not to inform her family.

During sentencing, District Judge Ling said that the prosecution’s request of 16 months’ imprisonment for the offence was “fair and just”.

While the ustaz’s early admission of guilt could be seen as a sign of remorse “to some degree,” she said that his old age and illness could not be considered as mitigating factors. 

She allowed the ustaz, who was present in court in a wheelchair, to start his jail term on May 15 — after his daughter has given birth. — TODAY