SINGAPORE - Former students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic lecturer Tan Boon Lee have accused him of making racially and religiously insensitive behaviour in the classroom.
One of them, Ms Nurul Iskandar, in an Instagram post on Wednesday (June 9), said Mr Tan had initiated an offensive discussion about Islam during lesson time, where he singled her out for being Muslim when she was his student about four years ago.
In a phone interview with reporters on Thursday (June 10), she said: "I remember that he opened up websites about Islam and explained why he didn't agree with certain Quranic verses.
"He then singled me out, and tried to start a debate on the topic. It didn't help that I was the only Muslim student in class and I sat in the front row."
Mr Tan is assisting the police with investigations after he was seen making racist remarks in a video to ice cream store owner Dave Parkash, 26, and his girlfriend Jacqueline Ho, 27, a user experience designer, in Orchard Road on Saturday (June 5) night.
The polytechnic has suspended him from teaching duties and it is conducting an internal investigation after the video surfaced online on Sunday.
Ms Nurul, who is now an electrical engineering student at the National University of Singapore, said the incident happened in July 2017.
She was a second-year electrical engineering student at the polytechnic at the time.
She said: "I remember being so affected by it that I sat outside the classroom with a friend waiting for him to finish talking."
She nearly stopped going for his classes after that, but decided not to because it was too close to the final examinations.
When asked about Ms Nurul's allegations, Mr Tan declined to comment "at the moment" but said he remembers her as a former student.
On Thursday, Ms Nurul said the experience in Mr Tan's class was difficult for her.
She said: "I was only 17 then, and was still fresh out of the madrasah, so I was still trying to adjust to the secular environment. Being singled out like that was very jarring for me."
Madrasahs are Islamic religious schools.
Ms Nurul said it was tough for her to speak up against her lecturer, as she was afraid that her scholarship would be at stake if things went badly.
"After all, I'm still being graded by the same lecturer so I felt it was wiser not to say anything about it," she said.
"And being the only minority in class, it was hard for me to speak out as I didn't have anyone behind me or to back me up, and I've always grown up with the mindset that I shouldn't cause any trouble," she added.
Ms Nurul finally mustered the courage to send an e-mail to the school about what happened. She never got a response, she said.
Reporters has contacted Ngee Ann poly for comment.
Since she put up the post about the incident on Instagram, Ms Nurul said more accounts about Mr Tan from other students have come to her attention.
One user on Instagram alleged that Mr Tan once made disparaging comments about Christianity in class, causing outrage among the students, while another alleged that the lecturer had made her take off her hijab, which covers the head.
"The hijab that I am proud of wearing became something that I felt ashamed of when he was around," the user wrote.
Asked if such incidents were common in school, Ms Nurul said that while there were cases of casual racism among the teachers, none of them were as "daring" as Mr Tan.
In her Instagram post, Ms Nurul said Mr Tan should not be allowed back in the classroom again because a "racist Islamophobe has no place educating our youth".
She wrote: "It is not enough to be anti-racist, it is not enough to be neutral. We need more people to step up, stand up and speak up against racism."
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