KUALA LUMPUR – Twitter has deleted a tweet by former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad in which he said that Muslims “had the right to kill millions of French people,” as it “glorified violence.”
In a string of extraordinary posts that came hours after a terror attack in Nice in which three people were killed, 95-year-old Mahathir began Thursday night by defending the teachings of Islam and cultural and religious differences with respect to Western nations.
He described French President Emmanuel Macron as “primitive” for defending freedom of expression following the beheading of a school teacher near Paris for showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in class.
The twice former Malaysian leader wrote that “killing is not an act that as a Muslim I would approve” but later added that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”
France’s junior minister for digital affairs, Cedric O, tweeted that he “just spoke with the MD (managing director) of @TwitterFrance. The account of @chedetofficial must be immediately suspended. If not, @twitter would be an accomplice to a formal call for murder.”
The tweet, which remained for hours on Mahathir’s account, was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence,” and was only later removed by the company.
However, on Friday, his outburst remained posted on his own website.
Mahathir’s statements sparked widespread condemnation across social media as well as among foreign governments, although Malaysia’s own administration has so far not commented.
On Friday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Mahathir’s outburst was “absolutely absurd.”
“Of course, they don’t have that right (to kill). That is just abhorrent to suggest anyone would have such a right,” Morrison said, according to a transcript of an interview with 2GB radio posted to his website.
“I mean, the only thing that should be said today is to completely condemn those attacks. And we do. That, that should be the response and it’s certainly Australia’s response. And I, I do not believe that is the view of Muslims,” he added.
Mahathir, who in the past has attacked Jews, the LGBTQ community and the West, posted the Twitter thread hours after a knife attack at a Catholic church in Nice, in which three people were killed and which Macron described as an “Islamist terrorist attack.”
The attack comes two weeks after a 47-year-old teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded by an Islamist extremist outside his school near Paris. Paty had shown a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils during a discussion on freedom of speech.
Images of the prophet are considered deeply offensive by many Muslims and are widely seen as taboo in Islam.
Following the brutal murder, Macron, who had already pledged to tackle Islamic extremism, said the country would “not give up its cartoons.”
His support of freedom of expression have sparked a furious reaction across the Muslim world.
This week, Malaysia joined the chorus of Muslim countries that have slammed Macron’s comments although, unlike other nations, it has not called for a boycott of French products.