KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 30 — The controversial tweet by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad concerning the attack on a cathedral in Nice, France, has since drawn condemnation from Australian figures and leaders.
Sydney Morning Herald reported former Australian ambassador to France Brendan Berne referring to the 95-year old ex-prime minister as a “pious hypocrite”.
“As Australians, we know very well that this is a man who likes to provoke. He is a bigot without principles, except those of attacking the Western world,” he wrote in French.
Berne recently ended his three-year tenure in Paris on October 16, and has since resettled in Nice. It is understood that he was at the Notre-Dame Basilica less than 24 hours before it was attacked yesterday.
Similarly High Commissioner of Australia to Malaysia Andrew Goledzinowski said he found Dr Mahathir's remarks deeply disturbing.
“I know that he has not, and would not, advocated actual violence. But in the current climate, words can have consequences,” he said on Twitter.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also slammed Dr Mahathir for his remarks, calling them absurd and abhorrent.
“The only thing that should be said today is to completely condemn those attacks. The only response is to be utterly, utterly devastated.
“This was the most callous and cowardly and vicious act of barbarism by a terrorist, and should be condemned in the strongest possible way,” he said during an interview with Sydney-based radio station 2GB today morning.
Morrison later tweeted that Australia's hearts go out to the French people who are dealing with so much during Covid-19, and that they condemn all acts of terrorism and stand united against such vile acts.
Yesterday Dr Mahathir posted a series of tweets addressing the attack, which saw three people knifed to death and several others injured, in which he said Muslims also deserve to be angry and a boycott against the republic will not even suffice.
The tweet that drew condemnation wrote, “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past.”
It was followed by, “But by and large the Muslims have not applied the 'eye for an eye' law. Muslims do not. The French should not. Instead the French should teach their people to respect other people’s feelings.”
The tweet was initially marked for “glorifying violence” but was left online, with Twitter citing its policy on keeping tweets of public interest. Subsequently the tweet was completely removed for violating its rules.
Prior to the series of tweets, Dr Mahathir wrote on his blog chedet.cc in which he suggested that Muslims have the right to punish the French for their alleged wrongs committed against them.
The attack in Nice comes while France is still reeling from the beheading earlier this month of French middle school teacher Samuel Paty by a man of Chechen origin.
Since Paty’s killing, French officials — backed by many ordinary citizens — have re-asserted the right to display the cartoons, and the images have been widely displayed at marches in solidarity with the killed teacher.
That has prompted an outpouring of anger in parts of the Muslim world, with some governments accusing French leader Emmanuel Macron of pursuing an anti-Islam agenda.