Former Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin waded into deep waters by claiming that the Jews and Christians were trying to "colonise Malaysia" by working with his political opponents, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
The leader of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition provided no evidence for his allegations, and his remarks drew condemnation and significant backlash.
Speech circulated on TikTok and FB
Malaysiakini reported that on Nov. 16, Muhyiddin was in Muar, Johor at a public event when he launched his accusations.
He alleged that Jews and Christians were plotting to "rule" Malaysia through their supposed proxy, PH.
Wild allegations of a racial and religious nature are nothing new in Malaysian elections. Muhyiddin's own coalition partner, Abdul Hadi Awang of PAS, recently alleged that PH promoted Malay candidates as a "political tool".
However, Muhyiddin's remarks appeared to go beyond the pale, judging by the reactions that followed.
Council of Churches of Malaysia condemned Muhyiddin's remarks
The Council of Churches of Malaysia condemned Muhyiddin's remarks and called for action to be taken against him.
Council secretary General Reverend Jonathan Jesudas said the group was shocked, and added, according to the New Straits Times:
"His statement is not only untrue but it is irresponsible of a politician of his standing to make such a statement to the public which was carried and widely viewed on social media.
Such statements, carelessly uttered, have a tendency to create racial and religious tension and strife."
PH's leader, Anwar Ibrahim, said that Muhyiddin's speech demonstrated that he had run out of pertinent issues to talk about.
Malaysiakini reported that Anwar responded to his allegations, saying that he is neither defensive nor apologetic. He also pledged to defend the "Malays, Chinese, Indians" and the rights of Sabah and Sarawak in Eastern Malaysia.
PKR to file police report
PKR, a component party of PH, plans to file an election petition against Muhyiddin, on the grounds that his remarks could have contravened the Elections Act, which states that campaigns must not incite racial and religious tensions.
If such a petition succeeds, Muhyiddin may be forced to vacate his seat in parliament even if he wins his election, Free Malaysia Today said.
PKR also said they would file a police report.
Muhyiddin claims he was taken out of context
Muhyiddin has since responded, saying on Nov. 18 that he was taken out of context.
He said the TikTok video was a limited part out of his longer speech, and was circulated to tarnish his image, The Star reported.
He claimed he was merely commenting on a supposed video clip that allegedly showed "foreign religious groups" praying for the opposition to win.
Muhyiddin added that the DAP (a component party of PH) needed to respect the rights of Malays and the Malay Rulers and said PN aimed to share the nation's prosperity with all races.
Top image from Muhyiddin Yassin and Anwar Ibrahim's Facebook pages.