A former Ngee Ann Polytechnic student, who shared about her experience in former lecturer Tan Boon Lee’s class, has said that she would like to apologise to him if she had the chance to speak to him again today, despite calling him out for his discriminatory speech and actions on Instagram previously.
The 22-year-old NP alumna, who has been identified as Nurul, made the counterintuitive admission while speaking as a guest on the first episode of the podcast by Mothership.sg.
Her response stemmed from her own reflection of her actions and empathy for those of the older generation who approached conflict resolution differently, she said in the audio interview.
Who is Nurul?
Three days after Tan confronted a mixed-race couple along Orchard Road in early June 2021, Nurul took to Instagram to post about her own experience with Tan, who was her NP lecturer four years ago when she she was an 18-year-old engineering student.
Her post, which accused Tan of speaking inappropriately about Islam during curriculum time, blew up with over 28,000 likes.
But it also caused even greater public opprobrium, as the 60-year-old man was already called out for his speech directed at the mixed raced couple on the street.
What podcast revealed
About two months after she called Tan out via her revelation on Instagram, Nurul said there are many things she wants to say to Tan, but the first of which is to apologise to him for going public and not resolving the issue privately.
Speaking from her perspective as a faithful adherent of Islam, Nurul said the informal sanctions imposed on Tan by the public has been punishment enough, which more than fit his transgressions.
Police investigations into both incidents are ongoing.
Why apologise to her racist ex-lecturer?
Nurul said on the podcast: “Oh my God, I have a lot I want to say to him. I think, firstly, I would want to apologise.”
“Because one thing I realised about people who are not from my generation, there’s a generation gap. The older generation wants things be quiet down, talk to them privately, solve the matter privately.”
“But my generation, we like, even if you had French fries for breakfast, you would post it on Instagram. That’s just our culture. We want everyone to know all the time. And neither side is wrong.”
“I only realised this after I went up with my story and people talked to me, I was like, ‘Yeah, what if he had preferred that way. What if he had actually had preferred that I just went to him privately, and talked to him privately?’ And that was how he had wanted to solve.”
“And on top of that he already had another situation before that.”
“Maybe that was one shortcoming that I felt.”
Speaking from a place of compassion, she also said there should be a limit to his comeuppance.
She added: “Everybody is hating on him and everyone is just burning him at the stake, right?”
“And I felt like, he’s human, you know, no matter how much people mess up, maybe you have to give them punishment? But his punishment is really long and really harsh. Because there are thousands and thousands of people on my post cursing him out, and hating on him, wanting him fired and gone. And people wanting just a bad ending for him.”
“But no matter how bad a sin is made, there should be a point where the punishment stops and they get a chance to learn, right?”
Has not seen ex-lecturer’s apology
In the podcast, Nurul also said she could not bring herself to read Tan’s apology on Facebook.
The whole experience of recognising Tan from the initial video of him accosting the mixed race couple, to having to resurface memories of the past that were highly traumatising, has left Nurul in a dark place mentally, by her own admission.
At the time of the podcast interview, Nurul let on that she was seeking help by attending counselling.
What did Tan allegedly say to Nurul and her classmate previously?
One particularly traumatising episode that Nurul experienced in NP was remembering Tan allegedly telling the students during curriculum time that they have to be smart enough to figure out if the religion they were following was false or not.
This triggered Nurul and left her feeling more sad and defeated, than angry.
She said on the podcast: “It made me feel kind of sad actually. As a Muslim, actually anyone religious, in fact, your entire life is a journey of wanting to improve for God.”
“You spend your whole day, your whole youth, your whole life, thinking, ‘How can I improve? How can I make my faith stronger? How can I believe in God more? How can I bring more good to the world through my faith?'”
“And then that battle with yourself is already very tiring.”
“At that moment I realise that not only am I fighting myself, but I have to fight this kind of people out there. People who make me doubt myself, people who make other people doubt me. And it just made me feel very sad. Not angry, just sad and tired, honestly.”
You can listen to the full podcast here: