Kabul, 2001—American forces have freed Afghanistan from the Taliban. Kites have returned to the skies. Women have removed their burqas. There is dancing in the streets.
Kabul, 2009—Suicide bombing, corruption in government, a thriving opium and heroin trade, Sharia law, and women oppressed and treated as slaves and property. Is this the Afghanistan, the free country, that American soldiers and Afghan freedom fighters gave their lives to secure?
In her exploration of the state of liberty and democracy in Afghanistan today, J.M. WIndle creates three characters who serve as examples of some of the conflicts and intricacies that exist in that war-torn country. Amy Mallory is a twenty-something Christian relief worker who’s experienced emergency situations around the world, but nothing like Afghanistan. Steve Wilson is a former Special Forces operative who now works for a private security company. His job is to protect the new Afghani Minister of the Interior, the person second in command to the president of Afghanistan. Jamil is a native Afghan with a troubled past. He goes to work for Amy’s NGO because he needs a job to be able to eat, but working for a woman, even an ex-patriate woman, has its challenges in Afghanistan.
This novel includes plenty of material to offend or discomfort ideologues. The teachings of Isa Masih (Jesus) and Muhammed are compared, and Muhammed comes up short. At the same time, American and European efforts to change the surface of Afghan society obviously fall far short and at times are counterproductive. Security expert Steve Wilson comes to the conclusion that we should just leave Afghanistan to the Afghans and allow chaos to ensue. Aid worker Amy Mallory decides to stay and try to help in spite of the severe restrictions on what she can do or say or offer. Jamil finds his own way to pursue freedom and justice, but the price may be his life.
I’ve read several other books, both fiction and nonfiction, set in Afghanistan, and this novel, from a Christian perspective, reinforces my view that Christian ministry in a Muslim culture is a difficult and costly calling. Although God can and will work anywhere, the Christian who attempts to demonstrate the love and mercy of Christ to Muslims will most likely find deep-seated opposition and spiritual warfare. In every culture, American, Arabian, Afghan, German, Chinese, or Australian, there are aspects of that culture that set themselves up in opposition to the gospel. In the United States some of those opposing forces are materialism and the lure of riches, the sexual saturation that permeates Western culture, and pride in our own accomplishments both individually and as a culture. In Afghanistan a lack of respect for women, moral self-righteousness, and the concept of honor within a closed society all combine to combat both political and spiritual freedom.
Veiled Freedom uses the vehicle of a political thriller to discuss some of these issues in both Western and Afghan culture and to explore at least one way in which the gospel of Jesus Christ might be able to infiltrate and transform Afghanistan. The ending is kind of a long shot, but with God all things are possible.