After 30 years of war and a ban on music and dancing under Taliban rule, pop culture is back in Afghanistan. Millions are watching Afghan Star, an American Idol-style vocal competition. You know the drill: thousands au...展开dition, a dozen make the finals, then viewers whittle down the roster of contestants until only one is left. But this is more than a glossy copycat show. Music holds special cultural import to Afghans, who have gone decades without art or public performance. So although Afghan Star is entertaining TV first and foremost, it also symbolizes freedom of expression and peace. Voting by cell phone is a novelty to many-their first encounter with the democratic process. When a female competitor dances on stage and drops her headscarf, there's talk of retribution and threats of an honour killing. In Afghanistan, you risk more than YouTube humiliation when you sing; you risk your life.