Tariq Ramadan: French Colonialism Rides Again





Tariq Ramadan is professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Qatar. He is the author of Islam and the Arab Awakening.

While the world looks on, France’s political class has come to an agreement on the principle of military intervention in northern Mali against a coalition of “Islamists,” “jihadists” and extremists. Those critical of the French government for going it alone concede that the decision to take action is “just”. French President Francois Hollande, who appeared lost at the head of a rudderless government, has gained new prestige and refurbished his image as a statesman — and as a military leader dedicated to “destroying the enemy,” to “putting him out of action”. Thus northern Mali seems fated to become the mirror in which France admires the image of its strong and determined president.
 
First things first, though: The ideology and methods of the Salafists and jihadist armed groups merit only condemnation. Their interpretation of Islam and their exploitation of religion by imposing the most degrading corporal punishment are utterly unacceptable. Once more, the contemporary international conscience of the Muslims must make itself heard loud and clear: Such an interpretation and such an application of Islam is a betrayal, a horror and a disgrace. The first to raise their voices must be the Muslims themselves and the Muslim-majority countries. Politically, intellectually and with all the strength their conscience and their heart can muster — a position that can brook no compromise.
 
To this principled position must be added a powerful dose of geopolitical analysis — all the while avoiding confusion between an imperative moral stance on the one hand, and a simple-minded binary political position on the other. To oppose the jihadist extremists does not mean accepting French policy in the region. George W. Bush’s “you are with us or with the terrorists” is as fundamentally false as it is perilous, both in terms of substance and consequences. Behind France’s “noble” commitment to the endangered people of Africa, several very explicit questions remain unaddressed. The West in general, and France in particular, had for decades forgotten the people’s suffering under dictatorship in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya before changing their tune and singing the praises of “revolution” and the Arab spring, of liberty regained. In Libya, humanitarian intervention revealed its ugly face beneath a crude disguise or as open affirmation of interest in oil and economic advantage...


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