By Arab News
By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
In the past few weeks, France was in the spotlight after it sent some of its troops to Mali. Many people in the Muslim world criticized France for intervening in a Muslims country. But it is ironic that those who are against the French intervention only remembered Mali when French soldiers were sent to Mali to hunt down big groups of terrorists and rebels who wanted to rule not only Mali, but also many parts of some northern African countries. The rebel gangs wanted to rule Mali in a Taleban style. Many of these groups are rebels with no cause. They simply wanted to turn Mali and parts of Niger, Libya, Tunisia and Algeria into lawless states. The hostage taking in Algeria was the straw that broke the camel back. French and international intervention was a must.
What happened in Northern Mali didn’t come out of the blue. There were many anti-government activities done by people who unfortunately call themselves Muslims. And there were many efforts in the past year to solve the issues peacefully, but all efforts were unsuccessful. The situation in northern Mali became unbearable and France intervened for humanitarian reasons. But many people simply were against the French intervention, providing no other solutions to the situation in Mali. Everyone said, France did it for uranium and France was carrying a campaign against Muslims. What was written about the intention of France didn’t come to many as a surprise. I mentioned it in one of my earlier articles (Jan. 26). I said it loud and clear that some people will say France did it for uranium.
They didn’t know about many contributions France made to world peace efforts and campaigns. The world is a better place because of the many French contributions to modern-day civilizations in science, art, medicine, education, space explorations and inventions. In other word, France has nothing against Islam or Muslims. As a matter of fact, about eight percent of France’s national populations are Muslims (more than 5 million), which makes Islam the second most widely practiced religion in France.
France’s intervention in Mali is part of France’s role as a superpower. And if Mali or African nations were able to deal with the rebels, France would not send its young men and women in harm’s way. France was and still is one of world’s superpowers ever since it became a state in 1534 and later on as a republic in 1792.
France covers an area of around 260,000 square miles (smaller than the state of Texas) with a population of around 65 million people. But it holds a very powerful position in the international arena. It is one of five countries with a veto power in the United Nations. And France is not new to Islam and Muslims. We see Muslims in France who are from northern African countries enjoying more religious and social freedom than their countrymen who are still living in these northern African countries. The French have even helped Muslim communities build mosques. France provided them with good education and health care.
France was exposed to Islam more than 1,000 years ago when the Muslims had reached the western French borders, but the Muslims were stopped from further expansion after they were defeated in the battle of Tours. And France’s relation with the Muslim world is considered one of the most important bridges between the two civilizations — Islam and Christianity. We saw France being a moderate voice on many international issues including issues in the region. On many occasions France took the side of the Muslims and Arab world. And we have to understand that France had and still has interests around the world. France had and has unfathomable influence on world affairs around the world.
Historians say it was the French Navy’s presence near the American shores during the American war of independence that kept the British Navy from using all of its naval assets. And it was the French money and materials given to the American side that gave an edge to the Americans when they were fighting the British. Also, let us not forget that if there was no Louisiana Purchase, the Mormons in Salt Lake City, Utah, would be speaking French today. So, France is not new to the international stage. France was in the area hundreds of years ago. They dug the Suez Canal and introduced printing to Egypt at a time when printing was the most important mean of communications and we still remember their strong presence during the liberation of Kuwait.
It is known fact that countries pursue their own interests, but colonialism is long gone. But the situation in Mali is so desperate and the gangs, some of them, have ties with Al-Qaeda and simply want to control all of Mali and other North African countries. And if these outlaws control strategic areas of northern Africa, then it would be easy for these rebels to threaten Europe and many Arab countries in northern Africa which are struggling to cope with the ongoing Arab Spring.
France intervened in Mali at the right time. The French mission will not be easy and I think it will be a long, protracted war against terrorism. The gangs are operating in an area larger than France. So, it is the northern African countries’ duty to eradicate those gangs and solve their own problems. France can’t be there forever. But at the end of the day, someone has to say mercy to France.
About the author: Arab News
Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz.
Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).