Malaysian politician Mahathir Mohamed incites violence in provocative tweets

Twitter removes posts from former prime minister claiming Muslims have 'right' to kill French people

Malaysia's former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, speaks at a press conference in Kuala Lumpur on August 7, 2020 to announce the formation of a new political party. (Photo by Vincent Thian / POOL / AFP)
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The former Prime Minister of Malaysia has risked inciting hatred after he posted tweets saying Muslims have the right to kill millions of French people.

His stream of messages was posted on Thursday just hours after three people died in a suspected terror attack in the French city of Nice. They were subsequently taken down by Twitter.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who resigned as premier in February, has hit out at France for “blaming all Muslims” in the wake of the beheading of a teacher who showed pupils controversial cartoons.

He posted the tweets on Thursday following an attack in the southern French city's Notre Dame church for which police have one person in custody.

Twitter initially flagged his tweet about killing "millions of French people" as "glorifying violence" but did not remove it, despite saying the content "glorified violence". However shortly afterwards, Twitter deleted the post, which it said violated its rules.

Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, said the attack appeared to be a terrorist incident.

The sexton, a lay member of staff responsible for the upkeep of the church, had just opened the church for the day when the attack happened.

A man armed with a knife slit the father-of-two's throat, partially beheaded an elderly woman, and badly wounded a third woman, according to a police source told Reuters.

The sexton and the elderly woman died on the spot, the third woman managed to make it out of the church into a nearby cafe, but she died from her wounds, Mr Estrosi added.

Gil Florini, a Catholic priest in Nice, said the sexton was in his late 40s or early 50s and had two children.

"He did his job as a sexton very well. He was a very kind person," he said.

The latest incident came while France is still reeling from the beheading of Mr Paty carried out by a man of Chechen origin.

The attacker, Abdoulakh Anzorov, had said he wanted to punish the teacher for showing pupils cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed published in satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Since Mr Paty's killing, French officials have reasserted the right to display the cartoons, and the images have been shown at marches held in solidarity with the dead teacher.

It has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing Mr Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.

In further tweets on Thursday, Dr Mahathir accused Mr Macron of being "primitive" and "uncivilised".

"Macron is not showing that he is civilised," he tweeted.

"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."

In Malaysia, Muslim groups including the Islamist party PAS, moderate group Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia and the Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia have called for the boycotting of goods from France.

Dr Mahathir, a member of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), was the country's prime minister in 2018 until earlier this year.

He was previously prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

The UMNO is Malaysia's largest and main national political party.