Religion impacts Afghani culture in
this novel The Kite Runner, written by Khaled Hosseini as it divides the
characters. This novel depicts the major sects in Afghanistan, Hazara’s and
Pashtun’s. Furthermore, it is evident that class divides the nation, and being
a Pashtun means that respect and honor is stored, whereas if someone is an
Hazara, they are looked down upon and mistreated. In the novel, Baba and Amir
are Pashtuns, the majority, and are superior to Hazara’s.
Additionally, this novel portrays various examples of division and
classification that is supposedly justified by Islam. It was evident in the
book that the division between Hazara’s and Pashtuns vs Sunni and Shi’a, the
comparison between Baba and Ali vs Hassan and Amir, and the betrayal of Baba to
Hassan are examples of discrimination caused by religion. Religion tends to be
helpful and can be an aid to those in need, but it can also be the root cause
of distinction and destruction.


To begin with, The Kite Runner depicts
ethnicity as a very important sector of the Afghani society. The two
main characters, Amir and Hassan belong to different ethnic groups, Amir who is
a Pashtun and a Sunni belongs to a wealthy father who is respected and honored
in Afghanistan, whereas Hassan is an Hazara and a Shi’a. Hassan’s father is a
servant 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 face
major discrimination as Afghanistan is predominantly Sunni, and people look
down on the Shi’a. Additionally, since Pashtun’s are in control of the Afghani
government they make sure that Hazara’s are disliked and don’t get much
importance in the country’s history.

They called him
“flat-nosed” because of Ali and Hassan’s characteristic Hazara
Mongoloid features. For years, that was all I knew about the Hazaras, that they
were 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 found
one of my mother’s old history books. It was written by an Iranian named
Khorami. I blew the dust off it, sneaked it into bed with me that night, and
was stunned to find an entire chapter on Hazara history. An entire chapter
dedicated to Hassan’s people! In it, I read that my people, the Pashtuns, had
persecuted and oppressed the Hazaras. To rise against the Pashtuns in the
nineteenth century, but the Pashtuns had “quelled them with unspeakable
violence.”  The book said that my people had killed the
Hazaras, driven them from their lands, burned their homes, and sold their
women. The book said part of the reason Pashtuns had oppressed the Hazaras was
that Pashtuns were Sunni Muslims, while Hazaras were Shi’a. The book said a lot
of things I didn’t know, things my teachers hadn’t mentioned. Things Baba
hadn’t mentioned either. It also said some things I did know, like that
people called Hazaras mice-eating, flat-nosed, load-carrying donkeys.  I had heard some of the kids in the neighborhood yell those
names to Hassan”(Hosseini 23) 

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As shown in this quote, Hazara’s are oppressed
and bullied, in the novel when Ali would walk down the streets kids would call
him “Babloo” which translates to “Boogeyman”, this is a
very offensive term as it is an example of bullying someone based on their
looks. There is also an attempt to cover up the genocide against Hazara’s and
how Hazara women were raped by Pashtun men. Religion divides the Hazara’s from
Pashtun’s because the majority of Afghani’s were Sunni and the treatment was
determined by your ethnicity. An example of the unfair treatment would be Amir
treating Hassan, he would make fun of Hassan for being illiterate and not being
able to read texts. As a child, this wasn’t a big deal to Amir but the
treatment was harsh due to the fact that it wasn’t Hassan’s decision to be
illiterate. Furthermore, Hazara’s were traditionally illiterate as they would
do labor work since they were lower class. Throughout the novel, Hassan is
discriminated against since he is an Hazara and they are considered to be an
unimportant part of Afghani culture. On page 75, Assef who is a bully decides
to rape Hassan and doesn’t feel guilty about it because he is grown up to hate
Hazaras. Not only is this discrimination but it’s cruelty “He is just a
Hazara.” (Hosseini 75). The anger and hate has built up so much against
Hazara’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 being
had feelings too.

Furthermore, in this
novel it was depicted that Hassan was very oppressed due to the ethnic group he
belonged to in Afghanistan. Generally, Hazara’s were looked down upon as they
were 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 the
world. In many ways, the Hazaras and Indigenous People are treated harshly and
are the minority of their country. An example would be when health care
providers would treat the Indigenous people differently because they were
considered to be the minority and low class, many argue why does race matter to
health care givers. History confesses that the first ones to explore the land
that is known to be Canada was initially found by the Indigenous people and yet
today they are treated poorly.

 In our analysis, we strategically locate our critical
examination of racialization in the ‘tension of difference’ between two
emerging themes, namely the health care rhetoric of ‘treating everyone the
same,’ and the perception among many Aboriginal patients that they were ‘being
treated differently’ by health care providers because of their identity as
Aboriginal people, and because of their low socio-economic status. Contrary to
the prevailing discourse of egalitarianism that paints health care and other
major institutions as discrimination-free, we argue that ‘race’ matters
in health care as it intersects with other social categories including class,
substance use, and history to organize inequitable access to health and health
care for marginalized populations. Specifically, we illustrate how the
ideological process of racialization can shape the ways that health care
providers ‘read’ and interact with Aboriginal patients, and how some Aboriginal
patients avoid seeking health care based on their expectation of being treated
differently. (Browne)

They have been oppressed and treated harshly
just like the Hazara’s. A similarity between these two ethnic groups is that
both of these groups have been given labor jobs and are continuously being
mistreated and discriminated against. Canada is known to be a “diverse”,
“multicultural” and different ethnic group are welcomed and
encouraged. The living standard of most immigrants are pleasing whereas the
living standards for Aboriginals are below standard. Aboriginals live in harsh
climates, their wages are lower, uneducated, lower incomes, and have a shorter
life expectancy all due to racial prejudice that they face. The Canadian
provides exceptional support systems for Canadians but Aboriginals were not
provided with any extra help or care. Therefore, the treatment of the Hazara’s
can be compared to the Indigenous people as they are similar in many ways.

To begin with, in the
novel when Ali was introduced as a kid, it was told that Baba’s father took him
in when his parents were killed. Baba and Ali grew up together just like Amir
grew 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 Baba
for many years. Ethnic grouping divided these characters because no matter what
Hassan did for Amir, he was never taken seriously, as a result Amir took Hassan
for granted as he always expected him to be there for him and cover up for his
mistakes. At the end of the day, Hassan was always a servant to Amir, whereas
Amir was Hassans only friend and always proved his loyalty by covering up for

Assef: “But
before you sacrifice yourself for him, think about this: Would he do the same
for you? Have you ever wondered why he never includes you in games when he has
guests? Why he only plays with you when no one else is around? I’ll tell you
why, Hazara. Because to him, you’re nothing but an ugly pet. Something he can
play with when he’s bored, something he can kick when he’s angry. Don’t ever
fool yourself and think you’re something more.” “Amir agha and I are
friends,” Hassan said. He looked flushed.”Friends?” Assef said,
laughing. ” You pathetic fool! Someday you’ll wake up from your little
fantasy and learn just how good of a friend he is. Now, bas! Enough of
this. Give us that kite.” (Hosseini 106-108)

Society taught Amir to treat Hassan a certain
way, he never proved his loyalty to Hassan when he was getting raped because he
was scared, and he thought of Hassan only as a servant whereas Hassan expected
nothing but friendship from Amir. Hassan lived his life being loyal to Amir, he
had always sacrificed himself for Amir and expected nothing in return making
him a selfless character in the novel. When Amir had taken the watch and money
and placed it under Hassan’s mattress, he then went to Baba and told him that
he thinks that Hassan stole the money. When Baba confronted Hassan about the
issue, Hassan did not deny it. He took the accusations because he wanted to
protect Amir. Even when Hassan and Amir grow up, he remained loyal because he
loved Amir. Hassan eventually learned to become literate so he can write
letters 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 treated
Hassan, he stayed loyal. Religion divided these characters in this novel
because class weighed heavier on the scale. Amir was portrayed as a selfish
character who only cared about himself, at school it was taught that Hazara’s
are of lower class. Baba never considered Ali his friend, just like how Amir
didn’t consider Hassan as his friend. According to Amir, their ethnic and
religious differences kept them from being friends.

Furthermore, Shia’s in
Afghanistan are treated poorly because of their religious and ethnic differences.
It is common for Hazara’s to be Shia, whereas Pashtuns are Sunni. The majority
of Afghanistan is Sunni, this means that it is looked down upon if you are a
Shia. Shia people are the ones who do all of the labor work in the country, and
since the Pashtuns who are Sunni are privileged, they are usually running businesses and doing the
white-collared jobs. “The predominantly Shi’ite Hazara minority in
Afghanistan has historically been deprived and poorly treated cluster. During
the theocratic rule of the Taliban (1996–2001), they were subjected to an
unprecedented degree of violence and persecution.” (Saikal). Shia’s are
treated 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 and
Amir. Khaled Hosseini, made it evident that the Shias work for the Sunnis.
These ethnic and religious differences drifted these characters apart. Ali and
Hassan were very loyal to Baba and Amir, whereas ethnicity and religion became
a barrier for these characters. As a result, the feelings were never mutual
towards Ali and Hassan. Hassan and Ali thought of Baba and Amir as their friend
and family, but Baba and Amir’s actions made it clear that the feelings were
not mutual. Therefore, religion divides the Shia’s from the Sunni’s.

Furthermore, religion
impacts the bond between Baba and Hassan. Baba sacrifices Hassan because he is
an Hazara and generally they are looked down upon. Furthermore, Baba is a
coward because he had sexual relations with Sanaubar, and never accepted Hassan
as his own child because he was afraid of what people would say. This also goes
against religion due to the fact that in Islam it is forbidden to have sexual
relations with anyone that you are not married to. Baba did not want to accept
a child that was a Hazara, religion and ethnic differences divided a son and a
father. It was never revealed to Hassan whom his biological father was,
throughout the entire novel Hassan assumed that Ali was his father because Ali
was the one that always took care of him.

I felt like a man
sliding down a steep cliff, clutching at shrubs and tangles of brambles and
coming up empty-handed. The room was swooping up and down, swaying side to
side. “Did Hassan know?” I said through lips that didn’t feel like my
own. Rahim Khan closed his eyes. Shook his head. …
“Please think,
Amir Jan. It was a shameful situation. People would talk. All that a man had
back then, all that he was, was his honor, his name, and if people talked…We
couldn’t tell anyone, surely you can see that.” He reached for me, but I
shed his hand. Headed for the door. …
I opened the door and
turned to him. “Why? What can you possibly say to me? I’m thirty-eight
years old and I’ve just found out my whole life is one big fucking lie! What
can you possibly say to make things better? Nothing. Not a goddamn thing!”
(Hosseini 17.57-63)

Baba betrayed Ali by having sexual relations
with his wife, Sanaubar. Additionally, Baba betrayed Hassan because he lived
his entire life clueless of his own identity. Rahim Khan says that “it was
a shameful situation” (Hosseini 57), this is a valid point because having
a child with someone that is not your spouse in Islam and in Afghanistan is a
dishonor to your name. Since, this is a sin in Islam, Hassan never came to know
who his biological father was. Therefore, religion separated Hassan from his

As depicted in the
novel, it was evident that Baba had sexual relations with Sanaubar. Pre-marital
sex is forbidden as it is an irresponsible act, it is punishable sin by the
Islamic Court. Unmarried men and unmarried woman are found guilty if they have
sexual relations with each other. It was evident that Sanaubar and Baba had
sexual relations with each other, as they had Hassan who was half Pashtun and
half Hazara. Baba had to sacrifice his second son, Hassan as it was a shameful
situation. Society would look down upon Baba if it was known that he had sexual
relations with an Hazara woman. Furthermore, it is a sin if a man and a woman
have a child before a marriage. “Sexuality within marriage is permitted and socially
accepted; sexuality outside marriage is prohibited and socially unacceptable. As a consequence, sexuality is not
only 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 is
acceptable, whereas having a sexual relationship without having a marriage is
strictly forbidden.


Moreover, religion can
divide nations and destruct them. In this novel, The Kite Runner written
by Khaled Hosseini, it was portrayed through many examples such as the
discrimination against Hazaras and the division between the two sects, Sunni’s
and Shi’a. How Hassan was treated by Amir and the neglect Hassan faced by Baba.


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