As if to prove that, the prime minister didn’t apologize. Instead, he lashed out at his critics. “Lots of people make nasty statements about us, about Muslims. People call Muslims terrorists,” Mahathir said. “People make such statements, and they seem to get away with it. But if you say anything at all against the Jews, you are accused of being anti-Semitic.”
It isn’t just Jews who feel the prime minister’s wrath. In June, Mahathir called “Anglo-Saxon Europeans” proponents of “war, sodomy and genocide.” Well, let’s return to Sept. 11. The 19 terrorists who attacked us that day were all Muslims. They declared war by attempting genocide. It isn’t racist to point that out. Even so, President Bush has gone out of his way over the past two years to avoid calling Muslims terrorists. In fact, he’s met with Muslim clerics and repeatedly called Islam a religion of peace.
Mahathir has shown no such restraint. The BBC reported, “when he himself was subjected to rigorous security checks at a U.S. airport [Mahathir] said American ‘anti-Muslim hysteria’ had led to him being treated like a terrorist.”
Well, just about anyone who’s flown since Sept. 11 has been treated like a terrorist. We’ve all had to remove our shoes. Thousands have handed over nail clippers. Congressman John Dingell was strip-searched. Why would Mahathir expect to receive a pass even American lawmakers don’t get?
Sadly, Krugman is willing to give Mahathir a different sort of pass by letting him get away with hateful speech as long as it gives the columnist a chance to take another shot at the Bush administration. The president has made mistakes, as any human will. But in his gentle treatment of Muslims, he’s erred on the side of caution, to say the least.
Krugman seems to be searching for “why they hate us,” and he blames President Bush. But that’s the wrong answer to the wrong question. The right question is for Mahathir: Why do you hate Jews? Unfortunately, we’ll probably never learn the answer.