Malaysia condemns 'provocative acts', defamation of Islam as anger over French cartoon mounts

Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his government is gravely concerned over the "growing open hostility towards Muslims".
Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said his government is gravely concerned over the "growing open hostility towards Muslims".PHOTO: BERNAMA

KUALA LUMPUR - The Malaysian government said it strongly condemns provocative acts that would defame Islam as Muslim activists in the country called for the boycott of French products amid a growing anger across the world over the French President's remarks that defended cartoons of the Prophet.

Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said in a statement on Tuesday night (Oct 27) that as a matter of principle, Malaysia strongly condemns any inflammatory rhetoric and provocative acts that seek to defame Islam.

He cited the populist speeches and publication of blasphemous caricatures depicting Prophet Muhammad as examples of actions that are disrespectful towards the religion and more than two billion Muslims all over the world.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin also said his government is gravely concerned over the "growing open hostility towards Muslims".

"Malaysia is committed to upholding the freedom of speech and expression as fundamental human rights for as long as these rights are exercised with respect and responsibility in order to not infringe on or violate the rights of others," his statement read.

"In this context, to denigrate and tarnish the Prophet and to associate Islam with terrorism are certainly beyond the scope of such rights."

Umno Youth has also submitted a memorandum to the French embassy in Kuala Lumpur asking French President Emmanuel Macron to retract his statement and apologise to Muslims.

President Macron found himself in the centre of a global backlash, particularly in the Islamic world, over a remark he made at a memorial service for high school teacher Samuel Paty, who was murdered earlier this month in a terror attack.

Mr Paty was beheaded near his school in a northern suburb of Paris after he showed cartoons of the prophet published by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo during a class on freedom of expression.

In an apparent defence of free speech, Mr Macron said that France would not "give up" the caricatures and pledged to tackle extreme Islamism in the country, which outraged many Muslim-majority countries.

Protesters took to the streets in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iraq, Gaza and Turkey as France warned its citizens abroad to take extra precautions.

"As a democratic and moderate Islamic country with a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, Malaysia continues to promote and maintain harmonious relations and peaceful co-existence, not only among our people of different faiths and convictions, but also in the context of the diverse global community," said Mr Hishammuddin.

He added that Malaysia will continue to work with the international community to promote mutual respect among religions and prevent religious extremism at all levels.

The Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (Abim), one of Malaysia's largest Islamic organisations, has also criticised President Macron, for making allegations "with elements of Islamophobia by hiding behind freedom of expression".

"As an organisation that promotes religious harmony, Abim condemns the brutal murder of Samuel Paty and at the same time strongly criticises the statement of the French president," its president Muhammad Faisal Abdul Aziz said in a statement.

He called on Muslims in Malaysia and around the world to boycott French products.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has similarly called on Turks to boycott French goods. But European leaders have come out in support of France, with leaders from Germany, Italy and the Netherlands publicly expressing their solidarity with Mr Macron.