Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said Muslims have a right to “kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”.
Mahathir posted his comments to his blog and Twitter as an attacker with a knife killed at least three people and wounded several others at a church in the French city of Nice on Thursday in an incident the city’s mayor described as an act of “terrorism”..
Mahathir, 95, a respected leader in the Muslim world, said he believed in freedom of expression but it should not be used to insult others.
“Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past,” Mahathir wrote in one of the tweets, which was later removed from the platform for violating its rules.
He continued: “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,” Mahathir wrote, referring to a man who decapitated a French teacher earlier this month.
Mahathir, who resigned from his second stint as Malaysia’s prime minister in March, said that French President Emmanuel Macron was “not showing that he is civilised”, adding he was “very primitive”.
“The French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings,” he said.
In France, Cedric O, a junior minister with responsibility for the digital industry and communications, said he had spoken to Twitter’s managing director in the country and urged the platform to suspend Mahathir’s account.
If it did not do so, the platform would be an “accomplice to a formal call for murder,” he said.
Twitter initially flagged Mahathir’s tweet about killing “millions of French people” as “glorifying violence” and later removed it from the thread. The other tweets – entitled RESPECT OTHERS – remained
But 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.— Dr Mahathir Mohamad (@chedetofficial) October 29, 2020
Leaders of several Muslim-majority countries have condemned remarks by French officials, including Macron, defending depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. The caricatures are seen as blasphemous by Muslims.
The dispute flared after a teacher who showed his pupils satirical cartoons of the prophet during a discussion in a civics lesson was later attacked in the street and beheaded by an 18-year-old 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.
Mahathir is known for his outspoken views and has previously drawn criticism for remarks attacking LGBT and Jewish people.
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