#2 AANEWS 4/7/96 AANEWS is distri

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#2************************************** AANEWS ******************************* 4/7/96 ****************************************************************************** ******************** AANEWS is distributed by AMERICAN ATHEISTS, a nationwide movement founded by Madalyn Murray O'Hair for the advancement of Atheism, and the total, absolute separation of government and religion. For information on this list, send mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews" in the body of your message. You can receive information about our organization by sending e-mail to: info@atheists.org; be sure to include your name, mailing address and zip code. Reply-To: aanews@listserv.atheists.org, Cgastbook@aol.com #################### AFGHAN REBEL OFFENSIVE -- A BRAVE, NEW ISLAMIC WORLD The "Frankenstein" Principle is becoming a reality in Afghanistan. For several decades, standard U.S. foreign policy consisted of support for nearly any political or military movements which were opposed to "godless communism", and conflicted with the foreign policy agendas of the Soviet Union, China, or other Marxist states. The result was that Uncle Sam found himself with "strange bedfellows" -- from Latin American death squads to drug lord in the Golden Triangle. When Islamic insurgents began their battle with the Soviet-style government in Afghanistan nearly a decade ago, the U.S. through its lot in with a host of motley religious thugs and self-proclaimed "freedom fighters." The Soviets had their own debacle in Afghanistan, though, which contributed to the decline of the communist state and its eventual replacement with the unstable Russian Federation. The Kabul government survives, however, besieged by a number of rebel groups including the notorious Mujahi deen. And Afghanistan has become the latest example of how foreign policy can create a "Frankenstein", a situation out of control and running amuk. Washington may well regret its earlier support for Islamic activists and its "anything but the commies" approach to internal diplomacy. The latest chapter in this story of how Afghans inherited a brutal political situation involves the group known as Taliban. The word is derived from an Urdu-persian term meaning student, which describes the origins of the well-armed militia group now controlling a good chunk of the Afghan countryside. The Taliban operate out of Pakistan; many recent recuits are illiterate and members of Afghanistan's largest tribal group, the Sunni Muslim Pashtuns, which also populate other countries in the region. Laying siege to the Afghan capital of Kabul, the Taliban is quickly created a thug-theocracy which goes far beyond even the repressive climat in fundamentalist Iran. Taliban guards set up check points and confiscate books, magazines, papers and even cassette tapes. When the group seizes control of a village, they immediately shut down schools, especially those for girls and women; TV sets are banned, and Taliban patrols tear down antennas. A Taliban militiaman told CNN News recently that "the Koran forbids music and television." Women are quickly ordered to wear the notorious head covering, the veil, and must be accompanied by males in public -- a situation reminiscent of Arab theocracies like Saudi Arabia. Despite its fundamentalist agenda, though, the Taliban frightens even some of the mullahs and theocrats in Iran; Taliban support also reflects the complex political arrangements throughout the sub-continent. Although they are muslim, the Taliban is also anti-Shiite. Iran's Shia leadership thus supports the Kabul government, along with Russia, India and Tajikistan. All these countries are providing whatever support they can for Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. But Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other Arab Gulf states have begun supporting the Taliban for their own geo-political regions. Pakistan has had a long-standing policy of seeking development of "the Islamic bomb", a thermo-nuclear capability; there is evidence that India wants the same military muscle, of course. The Far East Economic Review analyzed the Taliban insurgency in its Feb. 1, 1996 issue, and quoted diplomatic sources as warning that "The Afghan conflict has become internationalized as never before," warning that tensions have increased with Russian and Iranian involvement. Iran has established training camps for an estimated 8,000 guerillas led by a former Taliban officer, Ismael Khan. And while Iran nominally supports the present Afghan regime, Khan seems to be its best candidate in the event both the Taliban, and the Kabul government, can be vanquished. There is also the bizarre confluence of Iranian and Russian foreign policy. Iran fears the Taliban for its anti-shiite bias; and the Taliban is even MORE FUNDAMENTALIST than the Iranian clerics. Russia also has a stake in the situation, even with the decomposition of the former Soviet Union; within the borders of present-day Russia, Muslims are the fastest growing ethnic group. Preventing the spread of any Islamic fundamentalism may be in the best interest in Moscow. Ironically, the Mujahadin, which received Stinger missiles and other equipment from the U.S. in its war against Kabul, now is reportedly receiving Stingers from Iran. Last year, the Afghan government sold the Tehran regime $1,000,000 worth of these weapons. Despite efforts by American intelligence, Stingers are now once again flowing into the hands of the Mujahideen. Meanwhile, the fanatical Taliban are receiving arms and funds from Pakistan, including a new communications system, and support from Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With the winter snow beginning to melt, everyone seems to be gearing up for heavy, new offensives. In the fighting for political and social power, varying degrees of religious fundamentalism are all that the Afghan population can look forward to. The goal of an Islamic Republic has not yet been abandoned by the clerics in Iran, of course; but the Taliban phenomena suggests that creating "one nation under Allah" is something which can easilly be carried well beyond extremes. ***************************** (Editor's note: Ironically, the use of the term "Frankenstein" in this article was included BEFORE we noticed the URL for an internet reference you can check out: visit http://frankenstein.worldweb.net/afghan for more.) *** EVEN MISSING, MADALYN O'HAIR STILL A CONCERN TO FUNDIES Nobody seems to know what happened to the Murray O'Hair family. Since they left the American Atheists headquarters over six months ago, there has been no definitive word from the three individuals who played an important role in the American Atheist movement, and the fight for separation of government and religion. They vanished without a trace, and without leaving much word of where they were going and when they would return. That hasn't stopped speculation by the newsmedia, religionists and disgruntled individuals, though. And you can bet that today, Easter Sunday -- a "day of heat" for religious believers -- Madalyn Murray O'Hair will be the object of a lot of attention. Easter Sunday is one of those days when religious groups throughout the country like to circulate word about the notorious but bogus "FCC Petition" which O'Hair SUPPOSEDLY has filed with the Federal Communications Commission. The Petition is a hoax, of course; when she was around, Madalyn O'Hair never did file any such document, and the phantom petition has now become a virtual folk-legend in American culture. Early last month, for instance the parish newsletter of St. Clement's Catholic Church in Dearborn, Michigan was stuffed with an urgent warning telling the faithful that "We need 1 million signed letters" right away sent to the FCC in Washington. Why? Supposedly, Madalyn O'Hair -- the woman who did so much to end mandatory prayer and Bible recitation in the public schools -- was out to ban religious broadcasting on the nation's airwaves. In the demonology of christian religious fundamentalism, O'Hair -- conniving with bureaucrats, atheists and devil-worshippers in Washington -- was going to prohibit any religious message on radio, maybe on TV. Goodbye, Billy Graham, Morris Cerillo and Pat Robertson. Trouble is, it isn't true. What O'Hair DID DO was establish the nation's first atheist radio program, the American Atheist Radio Series; she followed that up with a cable TV show which once reached 130 cable systems, and is now being re-started. But there was NOTHING -- repeat NOTHING -- about banning religious broadcasting. O'Hair, a civil libertarian, simply wanted "equal time" for Atheists. That hasn't stopped the phantom petition, though. Spike Tyson, the office manager for American Atheists, told the DETROIT NEWS recently that the FCC rumor began a couple of years ago by "two guys almost as a joke...It just keeps growing and growing." Indeed, it does. For more than 20 years, churchgoers have been inundating the FCC with frantic letters, telegrams, faxes, and petitions of their owned, protesting Madalyn O'Hair. The NEWS quoted Audrey Spivak, a representative for the FCC who said "We (the agency) stopped counting when they reached 25 million, and that was in 1994." Reportedly, "church intensive" holydays like Easter bring out a new flock of believers with new anxieties and in quest of new demons. Madalyn O'Hair, present or missing in person, is always there as a target. We suspect that on Monday, mailboxes will be stuffed with letters from frightened parishioners and congregants worried that "the most hated woman in America" is about to throw Pope John Paul or the neighborhood faith-healer out of the TV studio. And by about Wednesday, an army of clerks at the FCC -- paid well by the U.S. taxpayers -- will be sorting through dozens, hundreds, even thousands of such missives. They'll be tearing down good pay (plus pension and retirement benefits) for their efforts; and they'll probably be competing with each other to see who can land the most "FCC hoax letters" into the circular file. We hope Madalyn O'Hair isn't dead, that instead she is alive, well, and kicking back after 35 years of work for Atheism and the First Amendment. If you're out there reading about this, Madalyn, we hope that the FCC Hoax brings a smile to your face! ****************** AND JUST HOSTILE IS THE CULTURE TO ''PEOPLE OF FAITH''? Groups like the Christian Coalition frequently complain that government and society are "hostile to people of faith." Is this true? Is there any evidence for such a contention? Ralph Reed, the CC Director, often equates "hostility" with any policy reflecting government neutrality toward religion in keeping with the First Amendment. For Reed and others, when government is not "pro-active" in fostering religion, it is automatically "hostile." But there are statistical indications that far from being a group "under attack" by atheists and secularists in government, religious superstition is actually a thriving marketplace. One indication of this is the thriving industry of religious broadcasting, specifically, christian radio stations. The National Religious Broadcasters group, a trade association based in Virginia, reported that last year the number of radio outlets carrying religious programming 15 hours or more each week rose 10% to 1,463. There is also the success of firms like Salem Communications Corporation, which has 35 stations nationwide and uses religious programming to encourage "traditional family values." Research by AANEWS shows that religious broadcasters are aggressively targetting "niche demographics", specifically groups like blacks, hispanics and women. Like their television counterparts, their formats often mimic mainstream media -- there are call-in shows (often with christian "family counsellors"), and even pop music by religious groups which only recently have spilled over into the mainstream marketplace. One religious broadcaster recently told the NEW YORK TIMES that his company was taking a "positive approach", and recruiting advertising from firms which fit the needs of his religious conservative audience. Who does advertise on these stations? Churches promote their activities, of course, but increasingly there are car dealers, cleaning firms, banks and real-estate brokerages. The giant ServiceMaster firm, a nationwide janitorial service, has an explicitly religious theme to its marketting strategy; and the real estate business is populated by religious fundamentalists who combine their talents in the marketplace with a "prosperity gospel" philosophy. According to Gary Crossland of the Soma Research demographic firm in Dallas, Texas, "Christian radio has the greatest concentration of women of all radio formats." (NYT, 2/12/96) While such statistics tend to undermine the alarmist views of Ralph Reed, they do suggest that religious conservatism is growing in both its appeal and in the sophistication of how it is marketed.There is an even more disturbing side to this, however; in the quest for "christian programming", some religious stations have aired extreme, fundamentalist messages from groups such as the Christian Identity movement. There is also a not-so-subtle anti-feminist, anti-gay and anti-tolerance message which is constantly re-inforced by religious talk show hosts, advice-peddlers and commentators. **************** You may quote from or forward AANEWS, provided that credit is given to this service and American Atheists. For more information about this information and commentary letter, send e-mail to: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org, and put "info aanews'' in the body. *********************************************************************** * * * American Atheists website: http://www.atheists.org * * PO Box 140195 FTP: ftp://ftp.atheists.org * * Austin, TX 78714-0195 * * Voice: (512) 458-1244 Dial-THE-ATHEIST: * * FAX: (512) 467-9525 (512) 458-5731 * * * * Atheist Viewpoint TV: avtv@atheists.org * * Info on American Atheists: info@atheists.org, * * & American Atheist Press include your name and mailing address * * AANEWS -Free subscription: aanews-request@listserv.atheists.org * * and put "info aanews" in message body * * * * This text may be freely downloaded, reprinted, and/other * * otherwise redistributed, provided appropriate point of * * origin credit is given to American Atheists. * * * ***********************************************************************

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