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by Stephen Lautens


August 31, 2001

(This column was written about 2 weeks
before the New York Attack)

You may recall the Taliban. They're the ultra-fundamentalists who have taken over Afghanistan and have been busy turning into an even worse place than it normally is. You may recall that they blew up two giant statues of Buddha a few months ago while the rest of the world pleaded for the preservation of these historic works of art.

At least the Afghan fundamentalist militia has been able to accomplish something that few others have been able to. They're managed to bring together most moderate Muslims, Christians and Jews (and tree worshippers too for all I know) and unite them in one common opinion: the Taliban is just plain nuts.

Among other things, they've already banned shaving, alcohol, pork, shorts and TV. You don't want to know the penalty for watching frat boys shave a drunk, shorts-wearing pig on TV. They've banned movies too, but you can hardly blame them after the stinkers Hollywood came up with this summer.

They've banned all sports, except for soccer. Apparently the Almighty likes a good game of soccer but has given up on the Leafs. Had I known there was such divine disapproval of sports I could have saved a lot of time faking all those cramps before gym class.

The Taliban has made it against the law for a foreign female to drive a car, immediately depriving the few remaining Afghani stand-up comedians of half their material. Afghan women also risk a good stoning if they're caught outside their home for something frivolous like employment or an education.

It's also a punishable offence in Afghanistan to be caught with pictures of any living creature. So much for reading 'Pat the Bunny' or 'If I Ran the Zoo' to your kids. It also must make it easy to be on the high school yearbook committee when you don't have to worry about class pictures.

Last weekend the Taliban leader announced that his government was "duty bound to make the use of the Internet impossible" for people living in Afghanistan because of its immoral influence. Or maybe he was just fed up with getting all those free Internet CDs in the mail.

The announcement really doesn't mean much when you consider less than one percent of the Afghani population has access to a telephone. And if they have teenagers you know all you'll get is a busy signal when you call.

The handful of Internet users in Afghanistan are government employees, and the Taliban wants to make sure they're not spending the day logged onto www.nakedankles.com. The computers there are running Windows 98 - in the case of the Taliban named after the year 998. Microsoft has suggested the Taliban move up to Windows ME (Medieval Edition) which has fewer bugs and improved security. It automatically pokes out your eyes and cuts off your right hand if you view an adult site.

Seriously, I don't have any trouble with anyone believing or doing any of these things. Religious freedom is as much for the people you don't agree with as it is for the person sitting in the next pew. But it's not right to force anyone else to live according to your own peculiar beliefs.

Call me a bleeding heart liberal, but it's just wrong to keep an entire country off the Internet or out of movie theatres at gunpoint.

Unless of course it's an Adam Sandler movie, in which case you're doing them a favour.

© Stephen Lautens 2001

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