With thousands more US troops going to Afghanistan, an Atheist public policy group is urging President Obama and other world leaders to increase support for gender empowerment, women's rights, and the building of secular, civil society institutions.
Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, praised a courageous group of Afghani women protesting outside a mosque against that country's latest law which requires females to be available for sex with husbands and bans women from the public square without a male escort.
"American men and women shed blood in helping to overthrow a despotic Taliban theocracy," said Buckner. "Now, the Taliban and other Muslim fundamentalists are again using violence to oppress women and shut down political opposition."
Buckner added that the status of women "is a barometer of how any society values human rights. History shows that across the world, when women are oppressed, everyone loses their freedom."
Buckner also noted that a military response is not the only answer. "We need to raise the status of women in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and 'separate mosque and state.' "
Dave Silverman, Communications Director for American Atheists, said that the issues of civil rights and Sha'ria (Islamic fundamentalist) law are front-and-center in other Islamic countries as well, including Pakistan.
"Religious fundamentalism is on the rise in Pakistan, for example, where over 50 people including Christians, Moslems, and atheists - now face the death penalty for 'blasphemy' and criticizing religion. The civilized world must stand together to fight such oppression, and not coddle Islam under the guise of political correctness."