Malaysia's former premier Mahathir Mohamad accused Twitter and Facebook of unfair treatment on Friday after they removed his posts about attacks by Muslim extremists in France.
He denied promoting violence and claimed his comments had been taken out of context.
Twitter removed a tweet from Mr Mahathir, 95, which it said glorified violence, and France’s digital minister demanded the company also ban Mr Mahathir from its platform. Facebook said the post was removed for violating its policies on hate speech.
“I am indeed disgusted with attempts to misrepresent and take out of context what I wrote on my blog,” Mr Mahathir said in a statement.
He said critics failed to read his posting in full, especially the next sentence which read: “But by and large 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.”
He said Twitter and Facebook removed the post which said that Muslims have a right to "kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past" despite his explanation, and slammed the move as hypocritical.
The comments by Mr Mahathir, a two-time prime minister, were in response to calls by Muslim nations to boycott French products after President Emmanuel Macron described Islam as a religion "in crisis" following the murder of a French teacher who showed his class a cartoon deemed offensive to Muslims.
His remarks also came as a Tunisian man killed three people at a church in Nice, France.
The US ambassador to Malaysia, Kamala Shirin Lakhdir, said on Friday that she “strongly disagreed” with Mr Mahathir’s statement. “Freedom of expression is a right, calling for violence is not,” she said.
Australian High Commissioner in Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski wrote that even though Mr Mahathir wasn’t advocating actual violence, “in the current climate, words can have consequences”.
Mr Mahathir’s second stint as prime minister lasted from 2018 until he quit in February 2020. He has been viewed as an advocate of moderate Islamic views and a spokesman for the interests of developing countries. But at the same time, he pointedly criticised Western society and nations and their relationships to the Muslim world.
The horror of the Nice attack is chronicled in this gallery.