I saw this photo on Reuters. What struck me most was the head scarf she is wearing. Here is a woman who, by joining the fight against the Taliban, is not rejecting her heritage. She is actively pursuing a new world, but not at the expense of her faith. The war in Afghanistan is often depicted as a war between the “backwards religious” and the “enlightened secular”, as though religious devotion cannot coexist with modern liberal democracy.
This woman, by wearing the scarf that symbolizes her faith, defies that too-convenient dichotomy. She demonstrates that the definition of a religion is determined by the voices (and actions) of its members. She is reclaiming her heritage. She is choosing what it means to be Afghan, what it means to be Muslim; rather than being defined by the expectations of her people, she is defining the expectations the world will have of her people. And that’s awesome.