Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad, who is well known for making anti-Jewish comments at international forums and claiming Muslims worldwide should confront Israel and Jews, threatened to resign on Monday. His threat was due to internal political turmoil in Malaysia that saw him fall out with another political leader, Anwar Ibrahim.
Mohammad may not actually leave office. Locals told the BBC he is not ready to step down, and this may be a charade to remain in power. At 94 years old, he is one of the world’s oldest leaders.
Malaysia’s leader is famous for being invited to Oxford, Cambridge and Columbia University despite always making antisemitic comments. Last September at Columbia, he justified Holocaust denial and hating Jews.
“Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews,” he told the audience. He claimed it was “free speech,” even though in Malaysia there is no free speech.
Malaysia sentences people to prison for “apostasy” and also convicts non-Muslims if they use the term Allah for God. In March 2019, a person was sent to prison for 10 years in Malaysia for “insulting Islam.” However, Mohammed is the among the most frequent international leader to speak at western universities, where he always bashes Jews.
He called Jews “hook-nosed” in 2018, a hateful comment that Reuters called “old habits.” He was unchallenged on the BBC that year when he not only called Jews hook-nosed but claimed, “If you are going to be truthful, the problem in the Middle East began with the creation of Israel.”
In a 2003, he urged the worlds “1.3 billion Muslims” to confront Jews, claiming that “1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.” He claimed that if Muslims did not struggle for their rights, “the Muslims will forever be oppressed and dominated by the Europeans and the Jews.” He asserted that “the Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million, but today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die.”
Mohammed is the most anti-Jewish leader in the world, and he is also the most welcomed at Western universities, which give him a platform. Out of some 200 leaders in the world, he is invited the most often. That leads to questions about whether Western governments and academics pay lip service to confronting racism and antisemitism but find ways to provide more venues for antisemitic world leaders than other world leaders.
Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust, was also invited to speak at Columbia. Since then, Iranian officials who do not deny the Holocaust have not received similar invites. Holocaust-denying world leaders appear to be more likely to be invited to Western universities.
If Mohammed leaves office, it will be interesting to see if he continues to get the red carpet at international events despite being the most anti-Jewish world leader. As a leader, Mohammed has been a hypocrite in advocating for tolerance for Muslims while encouraging hatred of Jews. In a country that bans insulting Islam, he routinely insults the Jewish people.