Media did not report tweet fully, says Mahathir

Dr Mahathir Mohamad's comments came at a time of heightened tensions in France.
Dr Mahathir Mohamad's comments came at a time of heightened tensions in France.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad received more criticism yesterday 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".

But he defended himself yesterday, saying that his following sentence, that Muslims did not take revenge even though they had the right to, was left out by the media.

Tun Dr Mahathir added that his plea for France to show respect for people's beliefs was also cast aside in the rush to attack him.

Speaking about the media in general, he said: "On the one hand, they defended those who chose to display offending caricatures of Prophet Muhammad and expect all Muslims to swallow it in the name of freedom of speech and expression.

"On the other, they deleted deliberately that Muslims had never sought revenge for the injustice against them in the past."

Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister James Masing, responding to news reports on Dr Mahathir's comments, said: "Mahathir's comments on the killing of non-Muslims in France are a reflection of who he is as a person. It's not Malaysian. We live and abide by the rule of law."

Dr Mahathir's comments on Thursday came at a time of heightened tensions in France.

This was soon after two people were killed in a Nice basilica, including a 60-year-old woman who was nearly decapitated. A third victim died later of her injuries.

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 who felt offended that the educationist had shown cartoons of the Prophet during a class on free speech.

United States Ambassador to Malaysia Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir yesterday 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 were left following his post.

One comment read: "Is this the language of a respected leader ...?????? It's totally violent."

In Dr Mahathir's post, following his comments that Muslims had the right to kill millions of French, he had added: "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 words have been drowned out by what many see as a call for violence.

Former premier Najib Razak, who was toppled from power in 2018 by Dr Mahathir, tweeted yesterday in reference to Dr Mahathir's blog: "The world should calm down and read @chedetofficial's statement in its full context.

"I'm sure he didn't mean exactly what he said. And even if he did, it's his personal opinion, not Malaysia's."

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 world-wide. The statement has offended over two billion Muslims globally and has sparked division among different faiths in the world."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 31, 2020, with the headline 'Media did not report tweet fully, says Mahathir'. Print Edition | Subscribe