1. What role does religion play in the lives of Baba, Amir, and Assef, and in the novel as a whole? * Though it is rarely the main focus, religion is nearly always present in Amir’s narrative. It is part of the culture of Afghanistan, and it is accordingly a fixture of the everyday life Amir describes. Amir creates a complex portrait of both the positive and negative traits of religion, with the negative always stemming from fundamentalists who use their beliefs as an excuse to carry out violence against others and to limit people’s freedoms. From what we learn of Baba’s feelings toward religion, this is not surprising. The first significant episode in the book involving religion, for instance, occurs when Amir, who is still a child, tells Baba that the mullah at school called drinking alcohol a sin as Baba pours a glass of whiskey. Immediately, the scene establishes a contrast between Baba and the mullah. Baba calls the mullah and men like him bearded idiots and explains to Amir that theft, in its many variations, is the only true sin. Baba obviously does not respect the beliefs of the mullah, yet he still has his own moral code. Amir consequently grows up with a strong sense of morality, though it is entirely separate from Islam. * Yet religion also has a major role in determining the direction that Afghanistan takes in the years after Baba and Amir flee to the United States. Although Amir’s narrative does not give a clear step-by-step account of the political events in Afghanistan, the reader does know that fighting continued in the country even after the departure of the Russians, called the Shorawi. Ultimately, the Taliban emerged with control, and from Amir’s narrative we learn that many of the Afghans who left their country think the Islamist government the group has created is simply a means for them to justify their violence and authoritarian rule. The character that most represents this image of the Taliban is Assef, who tells...
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