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’s comments came 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. But by and large, the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t,” Mahathir said in a blog post on Thursday, which he also posted on Twitter.
“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,” he said, referring to a man who decapitated a French teacher earlier this month.
Mahathir, who served as Malaysian premier twice for a total of 24 years, 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.
Twitter initially flagged 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.
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
Several Muslim-majority countries have denounced 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 French teacher who showed his pupils satirical cartoons of the prophet during a class lesson was later beheaded in the street by an attacker 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.