The former Malaysian Prime Minister who said ‘Muslims have the right to kill millions of French people’ has accused Facebook and Twitter of bias after they deleted his messages following international outcry.
Mahathir Mohamad sent the tweet shortly after a knife-wielding Islamist killed three people in a deadly terror attack in Nice on Thursday, leading to the social media giant facing pressure to delete his post, which it later did.
But the 95-year-old, who was prime minister of Muslim-majority Malaysia until February, said his comments had been misrepresented and his main intention was to express that Muslims had never sought revenge for injustices.
He said the posts were removed despite attempts to outline the context, adding that Facebook and Twitter ‘must at least allow me to explain and defend my position’.
‘But that is what freedom of speech is to them. On the one hand, they defended those who chose to display offending caricatures of Prophet Mohammed… 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.’
Neither Facebook nor Twitter responded directly to Mahathir’s latest comments.
Many have called on Twitter to go further and fully suspend his account from the platform, saying the company had not gone far enough. Twitter first labelled his Tweet with a disclaimer saying Mahathir’s post violated its rules, but it was being left up because it was in the public interest.
In his first set of comments on Thursday, Mahathir said freedom of expression does not include ‘insulting other people’ as fury over satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed sweeps the Islamic world.
The politician said he did not approve of the beheading of a French school teacher for sharing caricatures of the Prophet, but said: ‘Irrespective of the religion professed, angry people kill’.
‘The French in the course of their history [have] killed millions of people. Many were Muslims,’ he said in a tweet which has since been removed for violating the website’s rules.
Mahathir, who has drawn controversy for comments about Jews and LGBT people in the past, went on: ‘Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.’
The Malaysian politician said that ‘by and large’, Muslims have not applied the principle of ‘eye for an eye’: ‘Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings’.
Mahathir, who served as Malaysian premier twice for a total of 24 years, said that French President Emmanuel Macron was ‘very primitive’ and ‘not showing that he is civilised’.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison slammed Mahathir’s remarks, calling them ‘absurd and abhorrent’ as ge paid tribute to the victims of the terror attack in southern France.
‘The only thing that should be said today is to completely condemn those attacks. The only response is to be utterly, utterly devastated,’ Mr Morrison told 2GB radio on Friday morning.
France’s digital minister demanded that Twitter also ban Mahathir from its platform, with Cedric O saying he told the managing director of the social media giant in France that his account ‘must be immediately suspended.’
The former Prime Minister made no direct reference to the attack in a church in Nice, but his comments come amid fury across the Islamic world at President Emmanuel Macron for defending caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, and on the day that Sunni Muslims mark the Prophet’s birthday.
It came during a day of terror for France, in which:
- Vincent Loques, 45, a sacristan of the Notre Dame basilica in the city of Nice, was killed as he prepared for the first Mass of the day after 21-year-old Tunisian migrant Brahim Aoussaoui attacked the church;
- Aoussaoui attacked worshippers in the heart of the Mediterranean resort city with a foot-long blade, slitting the throat of an elderly woman in an apparent beheading attempt;
- A mother in her forties also succumbed to her injuries after seeking refuge in a nearby bar’;
- A knifeman shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ was shot dead by police in the city of Avignon;
- A security guard at the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, was stabbed and wounded;
- A man armed with a knife was arrested in Sartrouville near a church after vowing ‘to do as in Nice’;
- An Afghan man was arrested in Lyon trying to board a train while armed with a long knife
Malaysia’s ex-PM said: ‘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 boycott cannot compensate the wrongs committed by the French all these years.’
It also comes two weeks after a schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded in Paris for showing cartoons of the Prophet to his class in a lesson on free speech.
The Islamist terrorist who shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he beheaded a woman and killed two others in an attack on a Catholic church in France yesterday has been pictured.
Brahim Aoussaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian who arrived in Europe on a migrant boat just last month, attacked worshippers with a 12-inch blade in the Notre Dame basilica in Nice, slitting the throat of an elderly woman near the church’s holy water in a beheading attempt.
He hacked sacristan Vincent Loques, a 54-year-old father-of-two, to death as he prepared for the first Mass of the day, while a mother in her forties also succumbed to her injuries after seeking refuge in a nearby bar after telling paramedics: ‘Tell my children that I love them’.
The assailant was shot 14 times by armed police as he screamed ‘God is greatest’ in Arabic during the attack and ‘while under medication’ as he was taken to hospital, Nice’s Mayor Christian Estrosi said.
Aoussaoui arrived in Nice at around 6.30am via the railway station, where he quickly changed his clothes, Jean-Francois Ricard told journalists yesterday. CCTV then showed him arriving in the church at 8.30am and staying there for nearly half an hour.
The assailant, born in Tunisia in 1999, entered Europe via the Italian island of Lampedusa on September 20 and arrived in Paris on October 9. The travel information came from a document on Aoussaoui from the Italian Red Cross, the state prosecutor said.
Investigators found two unused knives, a Koran and two mobile phones, in addition to a bag with some personal effects. He was unknown to French security services, Mr Ricard told a press conference.
A picture showing Aoussaoui bleeding on the floor and being treated by paramedics after he was shot by armed police outside the basilica was tweeted by the head of the respected SITE organisation.
However, it later transpired the man was part of the far-Right, anti-Islam Identarian Movement, and had made a Nazi Salute. French media initially reported the man shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’, which turned out to be wrong.
Mr Macron travelled to Nice following the attack and gave a speech shortly after 3pm, as church bells sounded across France to honour the dead. The President said it was ‘clear that France that is under attack… because of our values of freedom and our desire not to give in to terror’.
‘I say it with lots of clarity again today: we will not give any ground,’ he added.
The beheading of teacher Mr Paty prompted President Macron to promise a crackdown on Islamic extremism.
Mr Macron and others have also launched a full-throated defence of freedom of expression and the right to mock religion, in a move which has inflamed tensions in several Muslim countries.
The latest in a long line of violent attacks in France was ‘already being celebrated massively across jihadi communities’ by late Thursday, according to the SITE Intelligence monitoring group.
SITE director Rita Katz said it was ‘hard to recall social media celebration this massive for terrorism’ with jihadists taking to Twitter and Facebook to welcome the latest grisly murders.
Katz said that jihadists were celebrating the attackers ‘freedom of action’ after three violent episodes in the space of a few hours. ‘These new attacks comes amid a massive and enduring wave of jihadi media condemning France and its cartoonists,’ she said.
A report by SITE said that jihadists were ‘overjoyed’ by the news from Nice, Avignon and Saudi Arabia.
Extremists linked to both ISIS and al-Qaeda have seized on the beheading of Samuel Paty earlier this month to incite more attacks against France.
Katz said that the ‘prospect of co-ordination’ between the various attackers seemed ‘increasingly plausible’, although not confirmed.
The two recent attacks are the latest in a long line of terror attacks in France in recent years, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre in 2015.
French politicians lined up to demand tougher action against Islamist terrorism after the triple murder.
Nice’s mayor Christian Estrosi said that ‘enough is enough… it’s time now for France to exonerate itself from the laws of peace in order to definitively wipe out Islamo-fascism from our country’.
One of Mr Macron’s party colleagues called for ‘total mobilisation’ against extremism in what another called a ‘war that the Islamists are waging on our nation’.
Mr Macron’s prime minister Jean Castex said France’s alert level had been raised to its highest ‘attack emergency’ setting after the violence.
Within hours of the Nice attack, a gunman had been shot dead by police in Paris while a knifeman was arrested for attacking a guard at a French consulate in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking in parliament, where he had earlier been talking about France’s new lockdown, Mr Castex said the Nice attack was ‘as cowardly as it is barbaric’.