ANKARA, July 26 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s gesture to honour the founding father of modern-day and secular Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, did not sit well with many Malaysians online.
The post on the prime minister’s official Facebook page about his visit to Ataturk’s mausoleum, Anitkabir, yesterday was among the most commented from his working visit to Turkey — but with mostly negative comments.
“Should we pay respects to a man that his corpse was rejected by Allah’s soil?” asked one of the top comments by a Facebook user called Ibnu Tufail.
“Hope the history of Ataturk becomes a lesson. He was called the pharaoh of the modern times because the earth and the sea did not want to accept his corpse,” said another top comment by user Noor Shilawati Abd Khahar.
The two comments referred to a prevalent view among Malaysian Muslims that Ataturk, whom they see as “betraying Islam”, did not die an honourable death.
The misconception came from the fact that Ataturk’s body was embalmed before it was put in Anitkabir.
Conspiracy theorists claim the embalming was because Ataturk could not be buried in the ground like other Muslims, as punishment from Allah.
Most comments left on Dr Mahathir’s post echoed this myth, mostly with disparaging comments against Ataturk.
Other Facebook commenters on the post also asked if Dr Mahathir was pressured to participate in the ceremony by host, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Yesterday, the prime minister laid a wreath at the mausoleum in a show of respect. The wreath in red and white, the Turkish national colours, had the words “Malezya Basbakani”, referring to the “Malaysian prime minister”.
Ataturk led the Turkish War of Independence and signed the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, which made Turkey a republic. Yesterday was the 96th anniversary of the treaty.
He was elected its first president and secularised Turkey.
In Malaysia however, some Muslims fault him for ostensibly causing the fall of the Ottoman Empire, the mightiest and last of the caliphate.