Contrary to the extreme and unfortunate claims by Mississippi Republican Senator Trent Lott that talk radio is “running America” and that “we have to deal with that problem,” the fact remains that the entire new media, of which talk radio is such a dominant part, really is making a difference in the American political landscape—an overwhelmingly positive difference.
The recent resounding defeat of Congressional efforts to push through a bad immigration reform bill stands as proof that although talk radio may not be running the country, it is certainly capable of moving and mobilizing grassroots America. It also explains why the liberal left is also anxious to require the FCC to reinstate what Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence has rightly called the “Un-Fairness Doctrine.”
However, the force of talk radio can also be illustrated in other ways, such as the remarkable true story of a young Egyptian Christian whose life was literally spared because of talk radio.
In September, 1999 my on-air guest on “The Don Kroah Show” was Mr. Nagi Kheir, a passionate spokesman for the American Coptic Association and one of Washington’s most ardent voices on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world, with special concern for those in his native country of Egypt.
In fact, on this particular program, Nagi was recounting the tragic story of an Egyptian Christian by the name of Adly Shakir from the city of Beni Suef in Upper Egypt.
On March 6, 1997 Mr. Sahkir’s then 13-year-old sister Teresa was kidnapped by her eighth-grade school teacher who was a Muslim. She was forced to convert to Islam in the local police station in the village of Wasta near Beni Suef. However, pressure on the Egyptian government from human rights groups succeeded in returning Teresa to her family in March of 1998.
Horrifically, in November of that same year, Mr. Shakir came home to find most of his family members murdered—his parents and young brother, age 12, shot to death. His 17-year-old sister Nadia was severely wounded by gunshot, and Teresa was also dead, brutally murdered in a gruesome ritualistic method said to be used by the extremist Islamic group al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya for those it accuses of apostasy.
Upon rushing to the police station to seek help and report the horrific events, Mr. Shakir was immediately arrested and accused of the murders. He was subsequently subjected to electric shock torture and beatings to force him to confess. As a result of the beatings, he was paralyzed on one side of his body and could not stand. He was then convicted and sentenced to death by hanging, with his case transferred to the Egyptian Court of Cassetion and scheduled for final judgment on October 3, 1999.
Although the American Embassy in Egypt refused to give any assistance in the case, a U.S. Congressman—Robert Aderholt of Alabama—happened to be listening to “The Don Kroah Show” on his way home that evening and heard the story. A short time later I received a personal fax from the Congressman which read:
“Recently I was listening to one of your shows and you discussed a young man in Egypt who is to be put to death around Oct. 3. Please send me an information sheet if possible.” Signed, Robert R. Aderholt
I quickly faxed the Congressman all the information I had on hand about the case and he moved to secure the signatures of 21 members of Congress—19 Republicans and 2 Democrats—on a letter to Egyptian President Mubarak on Mr. Shakir’s behalf saying, “We look forward to working with you to study these instances of apparent injustice and hopefully resolve them in a way which respects your legal system and also puts to rest concerns by citizens of our country about possible human rights violations.”
According to a column in the Washington Times covering the story, it was reported that Reno L. Harnish III, deputy chief of mission for the U.S. Embassy in Egypt responded to Congressman Aderholt’s letter, informing him that President Mubarak had received the letter and that Mr. Shakir’s conviction had been overturned.
So close was the U.S. Congressmen’s intervention to the scheduled hanging of Mr. Shakir that his defense attorney later said his client nearly fainted when officials came to his cell to inform him of the turn of events, thinking that they had actually come to escort him to the gallows.
The bottom line: Can talk radio make a difference? Absolutely! And not just in matters that can give politicians fits, but in such life or death issues of the fate of innocent people like Adly Shakir.