KUALA LUMPUR – Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad received more criticism on Friday (Oct 30) over his tweet the previous day that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”.
Said Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing: “The law of civilised nations is that no one is allowed to take the law into their own hands, let alone take somebody’s life just because that person happens to disagree with his beliefs or stance on certain issues.”
He added: “Mahathir’s comments on the killing of non-Muslims in France is a reflection of who he is as a person. It’s not Malaysian. We live and abide by the rule of law.”
Tun Dr Mahathir’s comments came at a time of heightened tensions in France, soon after two people died in Nice’s towering neo-Gothic basilica, including a 60-year-old woman who was nearly decapitated, and a third victim died after taking refuge in a nearby bar.
The attack in Nice came less than two weeks after the beheading of a teacher shook the nation and led to President Emmanuel Macron suggesting that Islam was in need of an enlightenment. The teacher was beheaded by an 18-year-old Chechen after he was offended that the educationist showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in a class on free speech.
The United States Ambassador to Malaysia, Ms Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir, on Friday extended her condolences to the French victims. She added: “I strongly disagree with Tun Dr Mahathir’s recent statement. Freedom of expression is a right, calling for violence is not.”
On Dr Mahathir’s blog, some 6,000 angry comments followed his series of comments..
One commenter said” “Is this the language of a respected leader…?????? It’s totally violent”.
The tweet by Dr Mahathir had these words immediately after writing that Muslims had the right to kill millions of French, that “by and large the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.”
But these have been drowned out by what many see as his call for violence.
New York Times in a report about the issue in France wrote that “what many French people see as their country’s uncompromising defence of its safety and free expression, many Muslims consider to be scapegoating and blasphemous insults to their religion”.
Former premier Najib Razak, who was toppled from power in 2018 by Dr Mahathir, tweeted on Friday: “The world should calm down and read @chedetofficial’s statement in its full context”, referring to Dr Mahathir’s blog.
“I’m sure he didn’t mean exactly what he said,” Najib said. “And even if he did, it’s his personal opinion, not Malaysia’s.”
However, Najib said he agreed with the opinion that Dr Mahathir’s social media accounts should be taken away from him before he does “more damage”.
In Indonesia, its Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “Indonesia condemns the statements made by the President of France that are disrespectful towards Islam and the Muslim community worldwide. The statement has offended over two billion Muslims globally and has sparked division among different faiths in the world.
“Freedom of expression should not be exercised in ways that tarnish the honour, sanctity and sacredness of religious values and symbols.
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