KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian leader Dr Mahathir Mohamad tweeted that Muslims have a right “to kill millions of French people” after a deadly attack in Nice, sparking widespread anger and prompting Twitter to delete his post.
Three people were killed at a church in the southern French city, with the attacker slitting the throat of a woman. Shortly afterwards, Mahathir launched an extraordinary outburst in a series of tweets. Twitter initially declined to remove the comments but finally did so following a furious reaction from the French government.
French junior minister for digital affairs Cedric O 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 Dr Mahathir’s tweet about killing “millions of French people” as “glorifying violence” but did not remove it. However, shortly afterwards, the tweet was deleted entirely for violating policy regarding glorification of violence.
Mahathir never made a direct reference to the attack in Nice. Referring to the beheading of a French teacher who had shown pupils blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Mahathir said he did not approve of his murder, but that freedom of expression does not include insulting other people.
“Irrespective of the religion professed, angry people kill,” said the outspoken leader. “The French, in the course of their history, have 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.”
He added that “by and large the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t.” Mahathir also said French President Emmanuel Macron is “not showing that he is civilised,” adding that he is “very primitive.”
“The French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings. 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 beheading of the French teacher and comments by the French president to protect freedom of speech including blasphemous cartoons have inflamed tensions. Protests and calls for boycotts against France have erupted in several Muslim countries.