The French, or the government of France, are now fighting a war in Mali, which used to be a French colony. Officially it is the Republic of Mali, but it isn't really a republic. It was a French colony until 1960. Mali is a multiethnic state created by Europeans drawing lines in the sand in the 19th century, butting up against the colonies of other predator nations, notably those of the British Empire.
The current leader of France is Francoise Hollande, of the French Socialist Party. He is not religious.
One of the militias that took over northern Mali is both ethnic (Tuareg) and religious, the Ansar Dine, which is Sufi Islamic. Ansar Dine is allied with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mghreb, which Salafist (ultra-orthodox) Islam. One of the militias is mainly ethnic Tuareg, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.
President of the United States Barack Obama is believed to have encouraged the French, who are supporting a military junta imperialist-backed "government" of Mali who have so far shown themselves to be utterly incompetent in everything but overthrowing the previous incompetent, corrupt government.
If ever there were a situation showing that "politics makes strange bedfellows," this is it.
In the United States the Tea Party Republicans, and for that matter the entire corporate security state, Democrat and Republican alike, have based their claims for legitimacy and looting the public till on the danger of the new post-communist enemy, militant Islam, as best known from the poster child Al-Qaeda. Extremists on the right accuse the President of being a socialist and secretly a Muslim, and they hate France and everything socialist France stands for, with the possible exception of foie gras.
It should be noted that the current "government" of Mali is Islamic. 90% of Malians are either Sufi or Sunni Islam. Only about 5% are Christian and 5% subscribe to traditional African pagan beliefs. Atheists and agnostics are rare in Mali.
My guess is the Tea Party will rally around French military intervention, while continuing to criticize socialism and atheism. American liberals will rally around the President.
The key factor here is the propaganda about the cruelty and human rights abuses of the "rebels", in particular of those associated with Al-Qaeda. The cruelty and human rights abuses of the government of Mali will be ignored, because they are western puppets, not Al-Qaeda, and hence Good Fellows. Liberal American and French women in particular can be counted on to believe any anti-feminist tale told about the male puritanical Islamic fighters.
The ongoing oppression of women in France and other American-allied nations will be ignored. A woman in France can't even make a traditional face covering a fashion choice any more without being bullied and arrested by French police. Instead of sending predator drones to take out, say, Irish bishops for their stomping on the rights of women, we send the drones into Islamic nations. We must send the drones somewhere, since the drone makers must have their profits. There is not much of an Islamic vote in these United States.
Al-Qaeda was a small gang of nutter criminals when Bill Clinton started going after them in the late 1990s. I am pretty sure they would still be a small gang of criminals today if the U.S. had not invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. Now with their network of allies they effectively control a large part of Pakistan, most of Somalia, a chunk of Yeman, and northern Mali. They have friends all over the Islamic world.
Like most Puritan sects, their real hatred is reserved for non-Puritans of their own basic pursuasion. Leave them alone and they will spend all of their energy fighting more liberal brands of Islam, and the modern secular people of their own nations. Fighting Al-Qaeda decreases U.S. security, but it increases the defense and homeland security budgets, which is the real objective.
The French once were a very tough people. They defeated Islamic invaders at the Battle of Tours, in 732, thus preserving the Roman Catholic Church and the burning of women as witches and heretics. Under the atheist Napolean they conquered most of Europe in the early 1880s. But lately their fighting skills have been laughable. The Vietnamese defeated them at Dien Bien Phu, and they lost most of their empire in the next few years. Today they should stick to cooking and fashion design.
If the Tauregs and Islamists in Mali are defeated, it won't be by the French. It will be because their puritanical culture alienates their fellow citizens, who eventually chose to follow a different course.
Francoise Hollande should be arrested and tried for war crimes, but he won't be. Only weak Africans and Balkan leaders are ever arrested for war crimes.