The Role of Religion in Afghani Culture

The Kite Runner written by Khaled Hosseini is a true-to-life story about Afghanistan, its social and religions order and people’s lifestyle. Through the main characters and symbols of the novel the author shows correlation between such notions as the Muslim faith and the blind fanatic faith. Afghanistan is country of independent and free people.

It is the country in which religion dominates on practically all spheres of life: it has an impact on people’s thoughts, ideology and lifestyle. The Muslim faith also determines social structure of the Afghan society. It historically happened that in this country there are two religious groups: Shia and Shinni. It is believed that after the Prophet Muhammad’s death the leadership in the country was taken by Shinni. “Sunni Muslims agree with the position taken by many of the Prophet’s companions, that the new leader should be elected from among those capable of the job.

This is what was done, and the Prophet Muhammad’s close friend and advisor, Abu Bakr, became the first Caliph of the Islamic nation” (Noor, 80). Shinni group makes the majority of the country, while Shi’it religions group belongs to the minority. The main character of the story who is also a first-person narrator, Amir, belongs to Sunni religious group, while his friend and at the same time servant, Hassan, is the representative of Shi’it religious  faith.

Hosseini tries to deliver a very important message to his readers which makes the part of the implicit sense of the novel: not every average Afghan Muslim is a Taliban. The author creates the image of Afghanistan and its average citizens with the help of the image of Hassan, a sensitive and kind boy: “”¦to me, the face of Afghanistan is that of a boy”¦ with a Chinese doll face perpetually lit by a harelipped smile” (Hosseini, 25). At the same time Assef who later rapes Hassan is a bright image of Taliban.

The author makes a great difference between average Muslims and the Taliban. Assef is evil and brutal in his nature.

He does not know sympathy, tolerance or kindness. He strictly follows Muslim faith in a rather primitive way. He looks for approval of his aggressive and brutal behavior in religion. His hatred does not allow him to brighten his world view and treat Muslim faith as a tool to live peacefully and in harmony with the world. The Taliban faith is a contrary to the liberal approach to the Muslim faith that is practicing in Afghanistan. These two polar oppositions are shown on the examples of Hassan and Assef. May be, due to this fact, these two characters may seem artificial because they are one-sided. “The strengths of The Kite Runner are many however. First, with the exception of Hassan and the evil Talib Assef, all of the characters are fully rounded and believable, particularly the narrator and his father” (Wyatt, 168). However, the images of Hassan and Assef reflect real social and religious situation in Afghanistan at that very time.

Islam and the Muslim tradition play an important role in such kind of society. However, Hosseini shows in his book what role this religion plays for different people. Religion can be both a relief and a tool of aggression at the same time. For Amir, for example, religion is a private sacred practice of repentance. Baba, another important character in the novel, “is celebrated in part for his exceptionally secular ways in a traditional society” (Noor, 78). Assef, the Taliban follower and representative, uses religion as a false front of his true nature. Under the mask of religious motives he rapes Hassan and let his natural cruelly go out. The author of the book speaking about the Taliban states: “They don’t let you be human” (Hosseini, 198). It is absolutely true in those conditions and even Amir returning to Afghanistan from America must accept those cruel rules of the game that is called life.

Amir, a son of a rich merchant Baba, moves to California, marries and only in the 90s he returns to his faraway motherland to rescue his friend’s son, Sohrab. Hassan, Amir’s childhood friend, and his wife are brutally killed by the Taliban band. The Taliban become that oppressive power that makes people live in fear and interpret the Muslim faith as aggressive and bloody religion. Amir finds out that Sohrab is enslaved by a rich Taliban official. Amir reveals Afghanistan and its people from a new side. Now he discovers true about his father’s sacrifices and brutal behavior.

The author presents us Afghanistan ”“ a religious country ”“ in which the Muslim faith plays a leading role. The Muslims can be both liberal followers and radical  fanatics. Assef being the Taliban leader and killing people without fear and sympathy is the representative of the most radical wing of the Islam. Hiding behind the religion he kills and tortures people. While speaking about Assef, the brightest representative of the Taliban in the Kite Runner, Amir creates his portrait: “I will never forget how Assef’s blue eyes glinted with a light not entirely sane” (Hosseini, 38). Assef, being a Taliban leader and having almost unlimited power, can not be called a psychically healthy person. He is a sadist and a sexual assaulter. Being a teenager he rapes Hassan, the most sensitive and fragile creature on the earth, later he rapes other girls and boys, enslaves Hassan’s son, Sohrab, makes him dance in women’s dresses and sexually assaults him. Sohrab says: “I’m so dirty and full of sin. The bad man and the other two did things to me” (Hosseini, 201). Assef is a Talib executioner who does not know what human feelings are.

To sum up, Afghanistan is a free country with its morality and social order where religion plays a dominant role. Khaled Hosseini, the author of the book The Kite Runner, presents his vision of this country and religious impact.

The author delivers an important message: The Muslim faith does not necessarily bring up blind fanatics who then become terrorists and kill other people and themselves. Social surrounding and personal childhood choices make people to be what they are. The leading force in Afghanistan, the Taliban, presents a group of such fanatics.

However, most of them are educated people and it was their conscious choice. They use religion as a tool to hide their true nature. They are brutal and sadistic in reality and it is not religionus impact. Such people as Assef create false interpretation of the Muslim faith in Europe and lead  to further misunderstanding between people of different religious confessions.

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