PUTRAJAYA: Dr Mahathir Mohamad has strongly condemned the military campaign in Yemen, amid reports of mass starvation and the death of tens of thousands of children there from malnourishment.
“Is that the teaching of Islam, to starve children to death just because you want to fight over who is going to govern the country? That is wrong,” the prime minister said in an exclusive interview with FMT at his office recently.
His remarks reflect the Malaysian government’s new official stand on the conflict in Yemen, where neighbouring Saudi Arabia has galvanised its allies to stop the advancing Houthi rebels in a civil war that began in 2015.
In June, the Cabinet announced that it was pulling Malaysian troops out of Riyadh, where they were believed to be working for the Saudi-led coalition which has been carrying out the bombing campaign in Yemen.
The Houthi rebels are adherents of Zaidi Islam, a sect within Shia Islam. The US and Saudi Arabia say the Houthis are aided by Iran, but Tehran has denied the claim.
The former Barisan Nasional (BN) government had been criticised over its decision to join the Saudi-led coalition to help the Yemeni government, despite saying its role was non-military in nature.
Critics also warned that Malaysia could be guilty of the mass deaths caused by aerial bombardments of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.
Global aid organisation Save the Children recently revealed that 85,000 infants under the age of five might have died from starvation or disease in the war-ravaged nation since 2015.
Part of the problem has been the inability to get medical and food supplements, following the Saudi’s action to block Hodeida, an entry point for some 80% of food imports and aid into Yemen.
Mahathir said the conflict showed how Muslims were not following the core teaching of Islam on being merciful.
“We begin everything by saying ‘Bismillahirrahmanirrahim’, in the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. But we are not being merciful,” he said in the interview.
Without naming any sides, Mahathir said it was a sin to aggravate the conflict in Yemen.
“Definitely this is wrong. This is a sin against the teachings of Islam. We have to care for people.
“Even if you win, the destruction as you can see is maximum.”