A knife attack in a Nice church leaves three dead, including an elderly lady reportedly beheaded. The attack comes days after President Emmanuel Macron pledged, during a funeral speech for murdered teacher Samuel Paty, the country would ‘never give in’ to Islamic terrorists. The EU is rallying behind France’s approach to freedom of expression, and its spat with President Erdogan of Turkey. The Nice attack comes two weeks after the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was killed days after he used cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in a class discussion about freedom of speech. There were also reports of a man shot by police in Avignon who was reportedly threatening people in the street with a handgun. Separately, another knife attack was reported by the French consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where an assailant attacked the building’s security guard but was arrested. The new attacks come after several leaders of Muslim-majority countries, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, as well as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, accused Macron and France of Islamophobia for its reaction to the killing of Paty. Macron attracted the ire of Erdo?an and others after a speech on fighting Islamist extremism in France, and again after he defended the freedom to publish cartoons that others consider to be offensive.
In a shocking justification of Islamist terrorism, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday that Muslims have a “right to be angry and to kill millions of French people”.
Just a few hours after another French person was beheaded by an “Allah hu Akbar” sloganeering terrorist in France, Mahathir in a series of tweets strongly justified the violent reaction of Muslims to the Charlie Hebdo caricatures of Prophet Mohammad.
“A teacher in France had his throat slit by an 18-year-old Chechen boy. The killer was angered by the teacher showing a caricature of Prophet Muhammad. The teacher intended to demonstrate freedom of expression. The killing is not an act that as a Muslim I would approve. But while I believe in the freedom of expression, I do not think it includes insulting other people. You cannot go up to a man and curse him simply because you believe in freedom of speech,” Mahathir tweeted, drawing massive support from many from the community on the social media platform.
Lashing out at French President Emmanuel Macron, who has declared that France will fight radical Islam, Mahathir tweeted, “Macron is not showing that he is civilised. 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. But irrespective of the religion professed angry people kill. The French in the course of their history has killed millions of people. Many were Muslims.”
“Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past,” he tweeted, triggering a world-wide debate on Islamic fundamentalism.
Mahathir then went on to claim, “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.”
The former Prime Minister of Malaysia warned France, “Since you have blamed all Muslims and the Muslims’ religion for what was done by one angry person, the Muslims have a right to punish the French. The boycott cannot compensate the wrongs committed by the French all these years.”
In the rest of his Twitter thread, he expressed disdain for the Western culture. “We often copy the ways of the West. We dress like them, we adopt their political systems, even some of their strange practices. But we have our own values, different as between races and religions, which we need to sustain,” Mahathir wrote.
The dress code of European women at one time was severely restrictive, he wrote.
“Apart from the face, no part of the body was exposed. But over the years, more and more parts of the body are exposed. Today a little string covers the most secret place, that’s all. In fact, many in the west are totally naked when on certain beaches. The West accepts this as normal,” he added.
Mahathir also took a dig at Christians, saying, “Generally, the west no longer adheres to their own religion. They are Christians in name only.”
The Nice attack, which took place in and around a church, is being investigated as a potential act of terrorism. It comes two weeks after the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was killed days after he used cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a class discussion about freedom of speech.
A suspect has been arrested, Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said. He added that the attacker “kept repeating Allahu akbar.”
The first victim, a woman, had her throat cut inside the Notre Dame church in Nice’s city center. The second, a man, was fatally wounded with a knife. The third victim was killed in a bar in front of the church, where she had taken refuge.
In Avignon, southern France, police shot dead a man yelling “Allahu akbar” who was threatening passers-by with a handgun. Police sources said that “for the time being there are no Islamist indications.” There is no indication any of the attacks are connected.
After news of the Nice attack, French President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Jean Castex — who was giving a speech in parliament at the time — headed into a crisis meeting. The parliament held a minute of silence.
Following the meeting, Macron headed to Nice, along with Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Justice Minister Eric Dupont-Moretti and the antiterrorism prosecutor Jean François Ricard, as well as Monseigneur de Moulin Beaufort, the president of the Conference of Bishops of France.
Nice has been the target of terrorists before, with an attacker linked to the so-called Islamic State killing 86 people on Bastille Day in 2016 and another knife-attack against armed forces in 2015.
The new attacks come after several leaders of Muslim-majority countries, including Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdo?an and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, as well as Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, accused Macron and France of Islamophobia for its reaction to the killing of Paty.
Macron attracted the ire of Erdo?an and others after a speech on fighting Islamist extremism in France, and again after he defended the freedom to publish cartoons that others consider to be offensive.
Following the attack, the French Council of the Muslim Faith tweeted that it “forcefully condemns the terrorist attack” in Nice and called on Muslims to annul their celebrations as part of the festival of Mawlid as a sign of mourning. Mawlid, which falls on Thursday, marks the birth of the prophet Muhammad.
France has also received messages of support from across Europe and beyond. “My thoughts go out to the victims of Nice’s abominable attack and to their loved ones. All of Europe is with you,” said European Council President Charles Michel.
“I condemn the heinous and brutal attack that has just taken place in Nice and I wholeheartedly support France. My thoughts are with the victims of this heinous act,” said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “The whole of Europe stands in solidarity with France. We remain united and determined in the face of barbarism and fanaticism.”
The Turkish government released a statement condemning the attack and offering condolences to the families of the victims.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that had was “appalled” at the news. “The UK stands steadfastly with France against terror and intolerance,” he tweeted. German Chancellor Angela Merkel also expressed solidarity with France. (IANS)