QUITE a number of people had publicly expressed their anger with Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) over an opinion he penned in his blog entitled “Respect Others” which appeared on the day when Muslims the world over celebrated the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
They took offence over a particular line in the posting which read: “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past” and accused him of promoting if not glorifying violence.
Despite Dr Mahathir’s attempts to clarify the subsequent line — which read “But by and large the 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” — should not be excluded when reading it, detractors chose to ignore it and instead focused solely on the earlier part.
If they had been less prejudiced and had taken time to read the whole article, they would have probably reached the same conclusion as RT media did in which it contended that Dr Mahathir had come up “with a mostly reasonable 13-point argument about cultural and religious interference and colonialism”.
It further stated: “For context, he wasn’t advocating violence — he said he disapproved of the murder of French teacher Samuel Paty. His argument was that an entire religion shouldn’t be blamed for the acts of a few, in the same way, that all of France shouldn’t be held for the millions it has killed around the world.”
And RT rightly pointed out that the Internet doesn’t do context and as such, it is understandable for Facebook and Twitter to demand that Dr Mahathir redact the paragraph that some had found offensive. They later suspended his social media accounts.
Disappointingly, those who chose to take the posting out of context included diplomats to Malaysia such as US Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdir and Australian High Commissioner Andrew Goledzinowski.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison reportedly lambasted Dr Mahathir’s remarks as “absurd and abhorrent” and that they should be “condemned in the strongest possible way”.
Weighing in is former Australian ambassador to France Brendan Berne who called Dr Mahathir a “bigot without principle”.
The terse statement from American Shirin Lakhdir’s is of the essence and it read: “I strongly disagree with Mahathir’s recent statement. Freedom of expression is a right. Calling for violence is not.”
The hypocrisy should not be missed. If anything, when Dr Mahathir said the Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres in the past, it was at worst a reflection on the standard practice of the US and its allies, the Australians included.
But Dr Mahathir did clearly state that Muslims did not subscribe to it.
For context, when the Americans launched the war on terror, aided by the Australians among others, it was a retaliation to an attack on the American soil and that killing the thousands of Afghans and Iraqis is a “right”.
It invaded Iraq with the justification that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and after “sending the nation back into the stone age”, no WMDs were discovered and the only ones with WMDs were America and its allies.
Iraq, from being one of the more developed nations in the Arab world, is today still nursing the devastation of the 2003 invasion.
If the likes of Australian’s Berne want to describe Dr Mahathir as a “bigot without principle”, he should direct them to Australian leaders who were part of the Iraqi invasion and probably add a few more deserving expletives as well.
Similarly, when the Americans decided to atom bomb the Japanese during World War II, despite widespread opinions that Tokyo was already on the verge of throwing the towel, Washington obviously believed it was its right to kill the Japanese by the hundreds of thousands.
Speaking about retaliation, the Israelis believed it was their right to hunt down Nazis involved in the holocaust, but no one from America or Australia questioned their rights to avenge the atrocities committed upon the Jews.
Narratives on the horrors of French atrocities and massacres on Muslims, in particular when they colonised Algeria, are widely available.
If the American, the Israelis and their allies’ standards were to be observed, then Muslims have a right, like them, to retaliate and kill the French.
But when Dr Mahathir pointed this out, it is offensive even and despite the qualifier from him that Muslims didn’t.
And the representatives from these Western nations, if they are not hypocrites and prepared to see their leaders for themselves, would admit that they are the ones defending, if not advocating the right to kill others.
Aren’t their nations manufacturing WMDs and no money, time and energy are spared in efforts to develop the most sophisticated weapons with the ability to kill as many people as possible, the more the better.
And these are weapons that are being used, by themselves or supplied to others, to kill Muslims, and whenever or wherever possible, devastate whole nations.
These had occurred and will continue to occur for as long as the slightly more intelligent diplomats and opinion leaders from these superior nations remain spineless to stand up to their leaders when they exercise their “rights” to kill people from errant nations.
However, it is slightly different from detractors from within Malaysia, be they politicians, journalists or self-styled liberated Muslims.
They are unable to digest what Dr Mahathir had said because they are keen to be accepted, to be seen as enlightened and seamlessly embracing Western freedom and rights.
They refuse to see the anger that arises from their defence of the right to insult, slur and disgustingly depict Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Despite Muslims being opposed to the killings of the teacher and others, Muslims are not supposed to react to such provocations just because the French uphold their secularism religiously. And Muslims are supposed to swallow further insults when they and their religion are blamed for such actions.
That was what Dr Mahathir’s article was all about, urging the French to respect the sensitivities of Muslims and by doing so, such tragedy would be avoided.
Only bigots, hypocrites and a league of dunces saw it as the glorification of violence.
Shamsul Akmar is the editor of The Malaysian Reserve.