Religion impacts Afghani culture inthis novel The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini as it divides thecharacters.
This novel depicts the major sects in Afghanistan, Hazara’s andPashtun’s. Furthermore, it is evident that class divides the nation, and beinga Pashtun means that respect and honor is stored, whereas if someone is anHazara, they are looked down upon and mistreated. In the novel, Baba and Amirare Pashtuns, the majority, and are superior to Hazara’s.Additionally, this novel portrays various examples of division andclassification that is supposedly justified by Islam. It was evident in thebook that the division between Hazara’s and Pashtuns vs Sunni and Shi’a, thecomparison between Baba and Ali vs Hassan and Amir, and the betrayal of Baba toHassan are examples of discrimination caused by religion.
Religion tends to behelpful and can be an aid to those in need, but it can also be the root causeof distinction and destruction. To begin with, The Kite Runner depictsethnicity as a very important sector of the Afghani society. The twomain characters, Amir and Hassan belong to different ethnic groups, Amir who isa Pashtun and a Sunni belongs to a wealthy father who is respected and honoredin Afghanistan, whereas Hassan is an Hazara and a Shi’a. Hassan’s father is aservant to Amir’s father as they had both grown up together. Furthermore,Pashtuns are Sunni Muslims, while Hazara’s are Shi’a Muslims.
Hazara’s facemajor discrimination as Afghanistan is predominantly Sunni, and people lookdown on the Shi’a. Additionally, since Pashtun’s are in control of the Afghanigovernment they make sure that Hazara’s are disliked and don’t get muchimportance in the country’s history. They called him”flat-nosed” because of Ali and Hassan’s characteristic HazaraMongoloid features. For years, that was all I knew about the Hazaras, that theywere Mogul descendants, and that they looked a little like Chinese people.School text books barely mentioned them and refer to their ancestry only in passing.Then one day, I was in Baba’s study, looking through his stuff, when I foundone of my mother’s old history books. It was written by an Iranian namedKhorami. I blew the dust off it, sneaked it into bed with me that night, andwas stunned to find an entire chapter on Hazara history.
An entire chapterdedicated to Hassan’s people! In it, I read that my people, the Pashtuns, hadpersecuted and oppressed the Hazaras. To rise against the Pashtuns in thenineteenth century, but the Pashtuns had “quelled them with unspeakableviolence.” The book said that my people had killed theHazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold theirwomen. The book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras wasthat Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. The book said a lotof things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned. Things Babahadn’t mentioned either. It also said some things I did know, like thatpeople called Hazaras mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys. I had heard some of the kids in the neighborhood yell thosenames to Hassan”(Hosseini 23) As shown in this quote, Hazara’s are oppressedand bullied, in the novel when Ali would walk down the streets kids would callhim “Babloo” which translates to “Boogeyman”, this is avery offensive term as it is an example of bullying someone based on theirlooks.
There is also an attempt to cover up the genocide against Hazara’s andhow Hazara women were raped by Pashtun men. Religion divides the Hazara’s fromPashtun’s because the majority of Afghani’s were Sunni and the treatment wasdetermined by your ethnicity. An example of the unfair treatment would be Amirtreating Hassan, he would make fun of Hassan for being illiterate and not beingable to read texts. As a child, this wasn’t a big deal to Amir but thetreatment was harsh due to the fact that it wasn’t Hassan’s decision to beilliterate.
Furthermore, Hazara’s were traditionally illiterate as they woulddo labor work since they were lower class. Throughout the novel, Hassan isdiscriminated against since he is an Hazara and they are considered to be anunimportant part of Afghani culture. On page 75, Assef who is a bully decidesto rape Hassan and doesn’t feel guilty about it because he is grown up to hateHazaras. Not only is this discrimination but it’s cruelty “He is just aHazara.” (Hosseini 75). The anger and hate has built up so much againstHazara’s that he doesn’t think twice before committing a sin and a crime.Hassan was treated like an animal as they didn’t realize he as a human beinghad feelings too.
Furthermore, in thisnovel it was depicted that Hassan was very oppressed due to the ethnic group hebelonged to in Afghanistan. Generally, Hazara’s were looked down upon as theywere considered to be “dirty” and were often treated like animals.They are a minority group in Afghanistan as there was a massive genocide.
Comparing this genocide to the Indigenous people in Canada and around theworld. In many ways, the Hazaras and Indigenous People are treated harshly andare the minority of their country. An example would be when health careproviders would treat the Indigenous people differently because they wereconsidered to be the minority and low class, many argue why does race matter tohealth care givers. History confesses that the first ones to explore the landthat is known to be Canada was initially found by the Indigenous people and yettoday they are treated poorly. In our analysis, we strategically locate our criticalexamination of racialization in the ‘tension of difference’ between twoemerging themes, namely the health care rhetoric of ‘treating everyone thesame,’ and the perception among many Aboriginal patients that they were ‘beingtreated differently’ by health care providers because of their identity asAboriginal people, and because of their low socio-economic status. Contrary tothe prevailing discourse of egalitarianism that paints health care and othermajor institutions as discrimination-free, we argue that ‘race’ mattersin health care as it intersects with other social categories including class,substance use, and history to organize inequitable access to health and healthcare for marginalized populations.
Specifically, we illustrate how theideological process of racialization can shape the ways that health careproviders ‘read’ and interact with Aboriginal patients, and how some Aboriginalpatients avoid seeking health care based on their expectation of being treateddifferently. (Browne)They have been oppressed and treated harshlyjust like the Hazara’s. A similarity between these two ethnic groups is thatboth of these groups have been given labor jobs and are continuously beingmistreated and discriminated against. Canada is known to be a “diverse”,”multicultural” and different ethnic group are welcomed andencouraged. The living standard of most immigrants are pleasing whereas theliving standards for Aboriginals are below standard. Aboriginals live in harshclimates, their wages are lower, uneducated, lower incomes, and have a shorterlife expectancy all due to racial prejudice that they face. The Canadianprovides exceptional support systems for Canadians but Aboriginals were notprovided with any extra help or care. Therefore, the treatment of the Hazara’scan be compared to the Indigenous people as they are similar in many ways.
To begin with, in thenovel when Ali was introduced as a kid, it was told that Baba’s father took himin when his parents were killed. Baba and Ali grew up together just like Amirgrew up with Hassan. Religion affects the bond these four characters shared.Ali grew up to be a servant to Baba and proved his loyalty by staying with Babafor many years. Ethnic grouping divided these characters because no matter whatHassan did for Amir, he was never taken seriously, as a result Amir took Hassanfor granted as he always expected him to be there for him and cover up for hismistakes. At the end of the day, Hassan was always a servant to Amir, whereasAmir was Hassans only friend and always proved his loyalty by covering up forAmir. Assef: “Butbefore you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the samefor you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he hasguests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I’ll tell youwhy, Hazara. Because to him, you’re nothing but an ugly pet.
Something he canplay with when he’s bored, something he can kick when he’s angry. Don’t everfool yourself and think you’re something more.” “Amir agha and I arefriends,” Hassan said. He looked flushed.”Friends?” Assef said,laughing. ” You pathetic fool! Someday you’ll wake up from your littlefantasy and learn just how good of a friend he is.
Now, bas! Enough ofthis. Give us that kite.” (Hosseini 106-108) Society taught Amir to treat Hassan a certainway, he never proved his loyalty to Hassan when he was getting raped because hewas scared, and he thought of Hassan only as a servant whereas Hassan expectednothing but friendship from Amir. Hassan lived his life being loyal to Amir, hehad always sacrificed himself for Amir and expected nothing in return makinghim a selfless character in the novel. When Amir had taken the watch and moneyand placed it under Hassan’s mattress, he then went to Baba and told him thathe thinks that Hassan stole the money.
When Baba confronted Hassan about theissue, Hassan did not deny it. He took the accusations because he wanted toprotect Amir. Even when Hassan and Amir grow up, he remained loyal because heloved Amir. Hassan eventually learned to become literate so he can writeletters to his best friend, Amir.
He ended up dying due to his loyalty to Amir,when the Taliban accused him of stealing Amir’s home. Therefore, no matter how harsh Amir treatedHassan, he stayed loyal. Religion divided these characters in this novelbecause class weighed heavier on the scale. Amir was portrayed as a selfishcharacter who only cared about himself, at school it was taught that Hazara’sare of lower class. Baba never considered Ali his friend, just like how Amirdidn’t consider Hassan as his friend.
According to Amir, their ethnic andreligious differences kept them from being friends. Furthermore, Shia’s inAfghanistan are treated poorly because of their religious and ethnic differences.It is common for Hazara’s to be Shia, whereas Pashtuns are Sunni. The majorityof Afghanistan is Sunni, this means that it is looked down upon if you are aShia. Shia people are the ones who do all of the labor work in the country, andsince the Pashtuns who are Sunni are privileged, they are usually running businesses and doing thewhite-collared jobs. “The predominantly Shi’ite Hazara minority inAfghanistan has historically been deprived and poorly treated cluster.
Duringthe theocratic rule of the Taliban (1996–2001), they were subjected to anunprecedented degree of violence and persecution.” (Saikal). Shia’s aretreated poorly due to their religious differences, as they are looked down up.In this novel, it was portrayed that Ali and Hassan were servant to Baba andAmir. Khaled Hosseini, made it evident that the Shias work for the Sunnis.These ethnic and religious differences drifted these characters apart. Ali andHassan were very loyal to Baba and Amir, whereas ethnicity and religion becamea barrier for these characters. As a result, the feelings were never mutualtowards Ali and Hassan.
Hassan and Ali thought of Baba and Amir as their friendand family, but Baba and Amir’s actions made it clear that the feelings werenot mutual. Therefore, religion divides the Shia’s from the Sunni’s.Furthermore, religionimpacts the bond between Baba and Hassan. Baba sacrifices Hassan because he isan Hazara and generally they are looked down upon. Furthermore, Baba is acoward because he had sexual relations with Sanaubar, and never accepted Hassanas his own child because he was afraid of what people would say. This also goesagainst religion due to the fact that in Islam it is forbidden to have sexualrelations with anyone that you are not married to. Baba did not want to accepta child that was a Hazara, religion and ethnic differences divided a son and afather. It was never revealed to Hassan whom his biological father was,throughout the entire novel Hassan assumed that Ali was his father because Aliwas the one that always took care of him.
I felt like a mansliding down a steep cliff, clutching at shrubs and tangles of brambles andcoming up empty-handed. The room was swooping up and down, swaying side toside. “Did Hassan know?” I said through lips that didn’t feel like myown. Rahim Khan closed his eyes. Shook his head.
[…]”Please think,Amir Jan. It was a shameful situation.
People would talk. All that a man hadback then, all that he was, was his honor, his name, and if people talked…Wecouldn’t tell anyone, surely you can see that.” He reached for me, but Ished his hand.
Headed for the door. […
]I opened the door andturned to him. “Why? What can you possibly say to me? I’m thirty-eightyears old and I’ve just found out my whole life is one big fucking lie! Whatcan you possibly say to make things better? Nothing. Not a goddamn thing!”(Hosseini 17.57-63)Baba betrayed Ali by having sexual relationswith his wife, Sanaubar. Additionally, Baba betrayed Hassan because he livedhis entire life clueless of his own identity. Rahim Khan says that “it wasa shameful situation” (Hosseini 57), this is a valid point because havinga child with someone that is not your spouse in Islam and in Afghanistan is adishonor to your name. Since, this is a sin in Islam, Hassan never came to knowwho his biological father was.
Therefore, religion separated Hassan from hisfather. As depicted in thenovel, it was evident that Baba had sexual relations with Sanaubar. Pre-maritalsex is forbidden as it is an irresponsible act, it is punishable sin by theIslamic Court. Unmarried men and unmarried woman are found guilty if they havesexual relations with each other.
It was evident that Sanaubar and Baba hadsexual relations with each other, as they had Hassan who was half Pashtun andhalf Hazara. Baba had to sacrifice his second son, Hassan as it was a shamefulsituation. Society would look down upon Baba if it was known that he had sexualrelations with an Hazara woman. Furthermore, it is a sin if a man and a womanhave a child before a marriage.
“Sexuality within marriage is permitted and sociallyaccepted; sexuality outside marriage is prohibited and socially unacceptable. As a consequence, sexuality is notonly subject to religious rules, but also has consequences for people’s social,economic and public status.” (BMC Public Health). Having sexual relations within a marriage isacceptable, whereas having a sexual relationship without having a marriage isstrictly forbidden. Moreover, religion candivide nations and destruct them.
In this novel, The Kite Runner writtenby Khaled Hosseini, it was portrayed through many examples such as thediscrimination against Hazaras and the division between the two sects, Sunni’sand Shi’a. How Hassan was treated by Amir and the neglect Hassan faced by Baba.