Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Muslims have the right to “kill millions of French” following a fatal attack in Nice, which sparked widespread anger and asked Twitter to delete his post.
Shortly thereafter, Mr Mahathir – the prime minister of Malaysia’s Muslim-majority majority until his government collapsed in February – sparked an extraordinary outbreak in a series of tweets.
Twitter initially declined to remove the comments, but eventually did so after an angry reaction from the French government.
Cedric O, France’s junior minister for digital affairs, said in a tweet in French and English: “I’ve just spoken to the executive director of @TwitterFrance. @Chedetofficial’s account must be blocked immediately. If not, @twitter would be an accomplice in a formal call for murder. ”
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Twitter initially described Mr Mahathir’s tweet about the killing of “millions of French” as “glorifying violence” but did not remove it.
Shortly thereafter, however, the tweet was completely deleted, and Twitter said it was because the comments “violated the guidelines for the glorification of violence.”
However, Mr Mahathir did not refer directly to the attack in Nice.
Regarding the beheading of a French teacher who showed the students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Mahathir said he did not approve of his murder, but freedom of expression did not include “insulting other people.”
“Regardless of the religion you profess, angry people kill,” said the outspoken 95-year-old, who in the past has led to controversy over statements against Jews and the LGBTI community.
“The French have killed millions of people throughout their history. Many were Muslims. Muslims have the right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past. ”
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But he added that “Muslims, by and large, have not applied the law of an eye for an eye. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t. ”
Mr Mahathir, who served twice as Malaysian prime minister for a total of 24 years, also said French President Emmanuel Macron had “failed to show that he is civilized,” adding that he was “very primitive”.
“The French should teach their people to respect the feelings of others. Since you blamed all Muslims and the Muslim religion for what was done by an angry person, Muslims have the right to punish the French, ”he said.
His comments sparked widespread condemnation, and some social media users described them as “outrageous” and “shameful”.
The beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty confirmed Mr Macron’s intention to embrace Islamic extremism.
But comments by the French President since then, particularly a vow to protect freedom of expression, including cartoons deemed offensive by Muslims, have sparked tension.
Protests and calls for a boycott against France have broken out in several Muslim countries.
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