Malaysia’s former premier Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”, prompting a swift response from Twitter, which quickly took down the tweet, and drawing wide condemnation from netizens.
The comment was part of a larger blog post, which was also posted on Twitter.
Mahathir started off the post by saying that “as a Muslim”, he did not approve of the killing of French teacher Samuel Paty — who was beheaded after he displayed blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) — but added that freedom of expression should not be used to insult others.
“The killing is not an act that as a Muslim I would approve,” he wrote. “But while I believe in the freedom of expression, I do not think it includes insulting other people. You cannot go up to a man and curse him simply because you believe in freedom of speech.”
Mahathir, 95, a respected leader in the Muslim world, further said that Muslims have a right to be angry and want retribution for past crimes.
“The French in the course of their history has killed millions of people. Many were Muslims.
“Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past. But by and large, the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t.
“Since you have blamed all Muslims and the Muslims’ religion for what was done by one angry person, the Muslims have a right to punish the French.”
The former Malaysian president also criticised French President Emmanuel Macron who, Mahathir said, was being ” very primitive in blaming the religion of Islam and Muslims”. Several Muslim-majority countries have denounced remarks by French officials, including Macron, defending the use of blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) in a French school classroom.
Mahathir said that Muslim-majority Malaysia was “peaceful and stable” because the citizens, who belong to different races and religions, were “conscious of the need to be sensitive to the sensitivities of others”.
The senior politician went on to say that while the rest of the world “cop(ies) the ways of the West […] we have our own values, different as between races and religions, which we need to sustain.”
He stated that the contemporary Western world “no longer adhere(s) to [its] own religion. They are Christians in name only. That is their right. But they must not show disrespect for the values of others, for the religion of others. It is a measure of the level of their civilisation to show this respect.”
Mahathir also commented on women’s rights, saying that originally the feminist movement in the West strove to secure the right to vote in elections. “Today, we want to eliminate everything that is different between men and women,” he said and added that the Western countries “should not try to forcibly impose” its values on the rest of the world.
Twitter said the message violated its rules about glorifying violence, but it determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the post to remain. One of the tweets was deleted, however.
The Malaysian leader did not mention the incident that took place in the French city of Nice earlier today, where a knife-wielding attacker beheaded one woman and killed two others in a Church.
The dispute flared after French middle school teacher Samuel Paty, who showed his pupils blasphemous caricatures of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) during a civics lesson, was beheaded earlier this month in the street by an attacker of Chechen origin.
French officials said the killing was an attack on the core French value of freedom of expression and defended the right to publish the cartoons. Macron has also said he would redouble efforts to stop conservative Islamic beliefs subverting French values.
Since Paty’s killing, French officials — backed by many citizens — have re-asserted the right to display the blasphemous sketches, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher.
That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing French leader Emmanuel Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan denounced Macron’s remarks on blasphemous caricatures, calling them “encouragement of Islamophobia”.
He was referring to comments made by President Macron in which he criticised Islamists and vowed not to “give up [blasphemous] cartoons” depicting Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him).
“By attacking Islam, clearly without having any understanding of it, President Macron has attacked and hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims in Europe and across the world,” said PM Imran, adding that “the last thing the world wants or needs is further polarisation”.
He also asked social media giant Facebook to place a ban on Islamophobia and hate against Islam just as it had placed on the Holocaust.