Saturday, August 02, 2008

The kite runner (2)

A beautiful Afghanisan landscape

I finished reading The Kite Runner four days after I started. The short time span taken reflects the great interest the book held on me.

It is a story about loyalty. It is also about self respect and being true to oneself.

After betraying his good friend, Hassan, during their childhood days, Amir was haunted by his act many years later into adulthood.

But in the end he had the chance to redeem himself – by rescuing Hassan’s son. And how he redeemed himself indeed. He had to pay much for his earlier betrayal by enduring lots of pain – emotionally and physically.

Okay. That much I would say about the story in the book.

The rest is for one to discover him or herself by reading it personally. Or, by catching the movie. The novel has been turned into a movie in 2007.

What’s more interesting to me now, is that The Kite Runner has piqued my interest in Afghanistan.

Like everyone else, of course I have seen and heard a lot about Afghanistan on the television. It has been in the news ever since 1979 when the Soviet invaded it.

But I never listened nor looked with real interest. I saw images of Afghanistan with my eyes. And listened with my ears. But never with my heart.

Not anymore, I hope. Now, I know Afghanistan is a great Muslim nation, with a long and proud history.

Sadly though, Afghanistan is also a nation which has been torn and ravaged by wars as invaders one after another continue to conquer her.

The current situation is not much different either.

A puppet leader is put in place by a foreign superpower merely to safeguard its regional security interests. This has seen Afghanistan turning into an impoverished country, one of the world's poorest and least developed.

Demographically, Afghanistan is ethnically mixed. This reflects its location astride historic trade and invasion routes leading from Central Asia into South Asia and Southwest Asia.

The major ethnic group is Pashtun (Amir’s ethnic group). Other, smaller, groups include the Tajiks, the Hazara (Hassan’s ethnic group) and a few more.

The most common languages spoken in Afghanistan are Persian and Pashto. But Persian is the most widely used language. It is an Indo-European language from the Iranian languages sub-family.

This explains why the book was sprinkled with many familiar words, i.e. words which are found in the Malay language such as hadiah, shalwar (seluar), naan, quwat (kuat), watan (tanah air), and biryani.

Religiously, Afghans are over 99% Muslims. Islam plays a key role in the formation of Afghanistan's society. Despite the early thirteenth century Mongol invasion of the nation, even a brutal warrior in the form of Genghis Khan could not uproot Islamic civilization.

In fact, within two generations, his heirs had become Muslims themselves.

You know, actually, once a year a group of Afghan men would visit my neighbourhood in Bandar Tun Huseein Onn. They come in collection of alms to build schools and madrasahs in the remote parts of Afghanistan, they say.

They come well prepared with documentations and photos to prove their genuine cause. But still, when I hand out my small donation, questions would still hang on my mind, “is this truly for a worthy cause? Are they honest people? ”

Yes, I know. I should practice “husnuzon”, bersangka baik. But still…

But the next time they come around, it shall be different, insyaAllah. There is now a feeling of kinship with them. We are brothers, after all.

"Oh mankind, We created you from a single (pair)of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes,so that you may know (recognize) each other"

(Al-Quran, Al-Hujrat 49:13).

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