Melbourne, February 21: Momena Shoma, a Bangladeshi international student stands accused of stabbing Roger Singaravelu in the neck while he slept with his 5 year old daughter, at their home in Mill Park on Friday, February 9.
The 24 year “brilliant student”, who had received a scholarship to study in Australia, has confounded her family in Bangladesh.
Momena arrived in Melbourne on February 1 to study Linguistics at La Trobe University, upon achieving a 25 per cent “excellence” scholarship.
The Age spoke to the Momena’s family in Bangladesh. Her uncle Mohammed Abdul Aziz, Dean of the Faculty of Science at University of Dhaka, said that the news of her arrest had come as a major shock and he was struggling to believe the allegations.
According to The Age Dr Aziz is aligned with the country’s current governing party – the secular and nationalist Awami League.
He said Momena had called him when she left for Australia on January 31, and told him that she was going to study and asked him to pray for her.
Dr Aziz also spoke to his niece on the phone in early February and she had told him everything was fine and that the people were “nice” and “good”.
“She did not have anxiety, she was comfortable where she was. What went wrong, I don’t know,” he tole the Age.
According to police, Momena was “self-radicalised”.
Police charged her with one count of engaging in a terrorist act after the alleged “Islamic State-inspired” stabbing. Police also claimed that she was wearing a burqa during the bloody attack, as witnessed by the man’s five-year-old daughter.
Momena faced Melbourne Magistrates Court on Saturday and did not apply for bail. She was remanded in custody to return to court on May 2. The alleged offence carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
She was boarding with the Singaravelu family for only one day, after which she stabbed Roger Singaravelu in the neck and shoulder as he took a nap on Friday afternoon.
According to the Herald Sun, 56-year-old nurse, Mr Singaravelu and his family regularly hosted international university students at their Mill Park home, through the Australian Homestay Network as a host family.
He reportedly woke up to a sharp pain and realised he was lying in a pool of blood. He rang his neighbours, who rushed to his assistance.
Mustafa and his wife Safia, who helped restrain his attacker, said they found their neighbour sitting on a plastic white chair in his garage surrounded by blood.
“Roger called us and just said: ‘Run, run, run, I’ve been stabbed’,” Safia told the Herald Sun.
“I saw all the blood, it was shocking. I saw so much blood,” Safia said. “I was shocked, I’m still shaken. It was terrible.”
Mr Singaravelu was in a stable condition after receiving surgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital on Saturday.
Victoria Police acting Deputy Commissioner Ross Guenther said comments by Momena led police to believe that the stabbing was terrorism related.
Police believe that as she was self-radicalised, there was no other threat.
“We will allege she was ISIS-inspired,” Australian Federal Police’s acting Deputy Commissioner of National Security Ian McCartney said.
Meanwhile, Bangladeshi police have claimed that Momena Shoma has a history of association with individuals engaging in terrorism.
Momena was engaged in 2014 with a now missing Islamic State extremist, Najibullah Ansari. Ansari was a Bangladeshi marine engineer before allegedly going to fight with ISIS in Iraq. He is also alleged to belong to the IS-inspired radical group, New Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh.
Momena and Ansari were never married because of parental disapproval. Momena’s parents are understood to have objected due to Ansari’s very conservative views.
Like both Momena and Ansari, who belonged to the upper middle-class society in Dhaka, Bangladesh has been reeling under the sudden onslaught of extremist views being inculcated within such educated youngsters.
Son of former Bangladesh Navy officer, Ansari, attended the prestigious Rajshahi Cadet College.
Ansari now known as neo-JMB, is reportedly behind the July 2016 terrorist attack on Dhaka’s Holey Artisan cafe in Dhaka, in which 29 people were killed.
Momena herself went to Loreto International School and graduated from North South University (NSU) with an honours degree in English in 2012.
It was during this time that Momena began donning views bordering extremism. She adopted the hijab and later demanded that her family stop watching television.
But Momena’s uncle Dr Aziz said that she had actually wanted to become a university teacher.
Following Momena’s arrest in Melbourne, her sister Asma-ul Husna, 22, who is also known as Shumona, allegedly stabbed a Bangladeshi policeman who was investigating Momena’s history for the Melbourne stabbing.
Yelling “Allahu Akbar” she stabbed the officer and told police, “You are disbelievers. The rule of Islam should be established in the country. If necessary, we should do jihad.”
The sisters were being brought up by their father, Mohammad Moniruzzaman, a chartered accountant. He currently works as an executive at Janata Insurance company. He previously worked as a banker in the post of a vice president.
Their mother passed away in June 2015 due to diabetes related complications.