Ex-World Leader: 'Muslims Have a Right To Be Angry and To Kill Millions of French People'


In 2018, at age 92, Mahathir Mohamad was supposed to be living his best life.

Improbably, the former Malaysian leader — widely seen as a strongman during his first tenure in office between 1981 and 2003 — had managed a scarcely believable comeback.

In a general election shock, his coalition had managed to defeat the party that had ruled the majority-Muslim Southeast Asian country since its independence in 1957.

That was enough of a feat to get worldwide coverage, almost all of it laudatory. Much like Alfred Nobel — who established the prize named after him after reading a false obituary which derided him as a “merchant of death” for his role in arms sales — Mahathir was supposed to be enjoying an improbable final act of his life, one where he redefined his legacy.

Instead of the word “strongman” being used to describe him, he was hailed for effectively bringing democracy to a country with a one-party system embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

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One thing most of laudatory coverage missed was the fact that Mahathir had a troubling history of anti-Semitic remarks.

Jewish publication Tablet noted some of his greatest hits in this department.

In 2003, he told the Organization of Islamic Cooperation conference that “Jews rule this world by proxy.”

He said in a 2012 blog post that sympathy for Holocaust victims was “wasted and misplaced.” Also in 2012, he said that he was “glad to be labeled anti-Semitic” because “[h]ow can I be otherwise when the Jews who so often talk of the horrors they suffered during the Holocaust show the same Nazi cruelty and hard-heartedness.”

This was him as late as 2016, being grilled on Al Jazeera about his views regarding Israel and Jews:

In 2018, however, most of that was ignored.

So was his anti-Western bent, another common theme of his first tenure in office. In 2003, as he was about to leave office for the first time, he rather memorably said that “[t]he September 11 attack on America, which supported Israel, was made an excuse for the Anglo-Saxon Europeans to return to their violent old ways.” That was about par for the course for him.

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It turns out Mahathir’s final act didn’t go quite as planned. In February, his coalition collapsed and he was replaced as prime minister. The new ruling coalition, as The New York Times’ Hannah Beech noted, was aligned with many of the elements of the old ruling party.

And Mahathir’s final act may have been charting just how far a major political figure not named Donald Trump has to go before Twitter will censor their tweets.

This time, surprisingly, it wasn’t anti-Semitism that did him in, it was the anti-Western sentiment.

Hours after three victims were killed in a French church by an attacker who allegedly yelled “Allahu akbar” before the murders, Mahathir tweeted that “Muslims have a right to be angry and kill millions of French people.” It was quickly deleted by Twitter.

The statement came at the end of a tweetstorm in which Mahathir seemed to make an apology for a separate incident where an 18-year-old Chechen Muslim allegedly killed a French teacher who showed a caricature of the prophet Muhammad, something considered forbidden in Islam.

The beheading came shortly after French President Emmanuel Macron controversially announced he would fight what he called “Islamist separatism” in France, according to The New York Times.

“The killing is not an act that as a Muslim I would approve. But while I believe in the freedom of expression, I do not think it includes insulting other people,” Mahathir tweeted Thursday. “You cannot go up to a man and curse him simply because you believe in freedom of speech.”

The rest of the thread was mostly unremarkable, if unfocused, criticizing Western ideas and how Western women dress.

“Today a little string covers the most secret place, that’s all. In fact, many in the west are totally naked when on certain beaches,” he wrote.

At the end of the thread, he criticized Macron and Western irreligiousness.

“Generally, the west no longer adhere to their own religion. They are Christians in name only. That is their right. But they must not show disrespect for the values of others, for the religion of others,” he tweeted.

“It is a measure of the level of their civilisation to show this respect.

“Macron is not showing that he is civilised. He is very primitive in blaming the religion of Islam and Muslims for the killing of the insulting school teacher. It is not in keeping with the teachings of Islam.”

“But irrespective of the religion professed, angry people kill,” he continued. “The French in the course of their history has killed millions of people. Many were Muslims.”

And then the deleted tweet: “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”

Twitter told AFP that the tweet was deleted because his remarks “violate policy regarding glorification of violence.”

The deletion came after the French junior minister for digital affairs, Cédric O, tweeted that “[t]he account of @chedetofficial must be immediately suspended. If not, @twitter would be an accomplice to a formal call for murder.”

On Friday, Mahathir claimed that the comment was taken out of context and was part of a contiguous argument.

It wasn’t a contiguous argument that needed to be made, though, not hours after an attack in France believed to be Islamic terrorism. One could easily read between the lines; it was an inflammatory remark that seemed to put the lion’s share of the blame on France’s culture.

There are very few contexts in which “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past” works as salient point.

This wasn’t one of them. It made headlines around the world for a reason.

In an article published Friday at the Brookings Institution — presumably written well before these tweets were made — political anthropologist Sophie Lemière still said Mahathir’s legacy was safe, despite his ouster: “At 95, Mahathir is keeping up the fight. Though his chances of returning to power are thin, it is not impossible. In some sense, he has already won against the odds by both masterminding a long and twisted political plot, and by re-writing his legacy as a victorious democrat.”

Except he didn’t. Perhaps in Malaysia, his legacy will be sustained. For the rest of us, we’ll likely remember him — if at all — for making the argument Muslims had the absolute right to murder Frenchmen and then saying it needed to be read in context.

Mahathir’s legacy of anti-Semitism and anti-Western sentiment should have been taken into account in 2018.

Instead, it was the catalyst for the last thing the world will remember him for. Few world leaders have been given a final shot at redemption like Mahathir Mohamad had.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture