Singapore – A Muslim who punched a Jew at the National Library in an unprovoked attack was jailed today.
This is the first case of its kind involving a religiously aggravated assault.
Azmi Osman, 35, unemployed, who had the words ‘Anti Jews” on his right cheek, admitted to punching the right arm of Mr Eliyahu Benhiyoun, 21, and knowingly promoting feelings of ill-will between different religious groups with the tattoo on his face.
The incident occurred at the National Library at Victoria Street on Feb 25.
Apart from the two offences, he also pleaded guilty to armed robbery and causing hurt to an NTUC FairPrice worker with a knife at Bedok North Street 1 in April.
He was sentenced to a total of three years and 12 strokes of the cane.
A Community Court heard that Mr Eliyahu was engrossed in texting his friend at the lobby of the library that day when he heard someone shout at him and felt a punch on his upper right arm.
The Jewish Welfare Board religious staff, who was wearing a yarmulke, saw Azmi staring at him nearby. He took offence of the assault and deemed the tattoo worn by Azmi provocative and anti-Jewish.
Azmi claimed that the words ‘Anti Jews” meant ‘Anti Jagged”, ‘Endeavour”, ‘Worship” and ‘Satanic”, which symbolised underground music.
Pressing for a deterrent sentence, Deputy Public Prosecutor Wong Kok Weng said the offences were racially or religiously aggravated, and threatened the long-term stability and social cohesion of Singapore.
‘Such xenophobic acts cannot be condoned in a multi-religious and multi-racial society such as Singapore,” he said.
If hate acts based on race or religion were allowed to persist, the fault lines between the races and/or religious groups would deepen, said the DPP. This would in turn create opportunities for religious extremist groups to exploit.
Community Court Judge Ng Peng Hong agreed with the prosecution that the stiff sentence was warranted, and the judge said Azmi would be counselled to remove the tattoo, which can still be seen after he had tattooed a picture of a Merlion over it.