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France: Enlightenment in the face of blood

The Nice attack may be an example of targeting the state, not just its policies, because of France’s historical influence on humanity

Turki Aldakhil

Published: Updated:

The Nice attack, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), touched the world. Statements following the massacre spoke of France as the country of enlightenment. This captivating country has managed to find humans’ greatest value, represented in universal brotherhood. The Nice attack may be an example of targeting the state, not just its policies, because of France’s historical influence on humanity.

There have been major French historical and influential figures, from the era of philosopher Rene Descartes to that of philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who taught Dr Moajab al-Zahrani, director of the Arab World Institute in Paris, at the Sorbonne. French culture’s major concepts have influenced the Arab and Muslim worlds. France has also contributed to organizing human values and civil concepts.

In his book “The Two Treatises of Civil Government,” English philosopher John Locke, who greatly influenced the French, wrote: “Men being… by nature, all free, equal, and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.

The Nice attack may be an example of targeting the state, not just its policies, because of France’s historical influence on humanity

Turki Aldakhil

“The only way whereby any one divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any, that are not of it.

“And thus that, which begins and actually constitutes any political society, is nothing but the consent of any number of freemen capable of a majority to unite and incorporate into such a society. And this is that, and that only, which did, or could give beginning to any lawful government in the world.”

Those attacking people with trucks or suicide bombers cannot understand the social contracts that were established in Europe through solid and theoretical influence.

Descartes

In his book “Entrance to the European Enlightenment,” Hashem Saleh wrote that Descartes “influenced an entire community and instilled his traits in them to the point where we can no longer differentiate between the people and the individual. He was a nation on his own. Even the organization of streets and public squares in France carries the systematic features of Descartes in terms of clarity and accuracy.

“But who knows that Descartes feared churchmen to the maximum? And that he lived almost his entire life avoiding their sword held over his head? This is despite the precautions he took and the pious measures he followed to survive their evil. This is why he left his country, France, which was full of fanatics as per the Catholic sect, and he went to live in a Protestant country that was more free and liberal, The Netherlands.”

This was France five centuries ago. It is as if it survived radical Catholicism only to confront other forms of radicalism. France, as President Francois Hollande has said, will remain the country of enlightenment and freedom to the world.


This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on July 18, 2016.

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Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.