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Turkish author slams Dr M's comments on Jews as 'disrespectful'

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Renowned Turkish author and journalist Mustafa Akyol has criticised Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad over his disparaging comments against Jews during a recent talk in the United Kingdom.

Mahathir has received flak from numerous quarters after telling the Cambridge Union on Sunday that the Jews he knows are only his friends because they are unlike others from the community.

"Imagine some non-Muslim politician saying that. We Muslims would find it quite disrespectful.

"So, Malaysian PM Mahathir is similarly disrespectful here," Mustafa tweeted on Tuesday, as he retweeted a post by the Union of Jewish Students (UJS).

In a short clip of the talk uploaded in UJS' tweet, Mahathir can be heard saying, "I have some Jewish friends, very good friends. They are not like the other Jews, that’s why they are my friends."

The premier made the comment in response to a question by the session moderator Adam Davies, who asked him to justify saying that Jews were "inclined towards money."

He was also reported to have said that "the Jews do a lot of wrong things, which force us to pass comment" during the talk.

Additionally, Mahathir defended previously describing Jews as "hook-nosed."

"People do generalise. In describing certain people we take some general characteristics that they have.

"Why is it that it’s the Jews resent this when other people don't resent being accused of some general characteristic that they have?" he asked, reiterating his claim that the Jews had called the Malays "lazy."

'Chilling' laughter

Mahathir's statements at the talk were followed by laughter from the crowd, which comprised many Malaysians and members of the prime minister's delegation, including several members of his cabinet.

In response to Mahathir's comment, the UJS tweeted: "Freedom of speech is not a joke when it incites hatred against one people."

In an article on the union's website, campaign director Daniel Kosky also described the laughter that followed Mahathir's comments as "chilling."

Kosky also criticised Cambridge Union for allowing "unrepentant anti-Semite" Mahathir to speak in the first place.

This is not the first time the premier has solicited criticism with his remarks against the Jewish community.

Last October, he repeated the infamous "hooked-nose" remark – first made in his 1970 book The Malay Dilemma – during a BBC 'Hard Talk' interview, where he also purportedly questioned the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Jewish students also protested against Mahathir's visit to the Oxford Union last January.

'Disappointing and unpleasant'

A Facebook posting by the group Benar Malaysia, meanwhile, featured an essay by one Arjun Dhar which labels the prime minister's talk as "disappointing and unpleasant."

"Before entering, I had thought of him as an enigma, a giant of history with the tremendous recent achievement of having pulled Malaysia from the throes of deep-set corruption," said the writer, who claimed to have attended the talk. 

"The man I saw at the Union came across as a wily politician, but a distinctly mediocre candidate for governance."

On deriding Mahathir's purportedly racist comments, the writer said: "He (Mahathir) did not acknowledge Malaysia’s treatment of its minorities or his experiences of racism as a medical student in Singapore."

The writer also took aim at the audience, which he claimed was heavily stacked in Mahathir's favour, for agreeing with the prime minister's statements.

 

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