Jan 14, 2021

The semantics of racial slurs in Afghanistan

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on my Farsi blog about my experience with racial discrimination and racial prejudice in Afghanistan and today, I thought I should start writing a few posts about the semantics of ethnic slurs that Pashtuns, Tajiks, and even Sayyids, who are Shias and look like Hazaras, commonly use against the Hazara people. Here is one of the most popular racial slurs used toward the Hazaras:

"God forbid my dog to be a Hazara" (خدا سگ مره هزاره نکنه  khuda sagi mara hazara nakuna). 

Here are four common features of this racial slur:

1. Dogs are known to be loyal, friendly, and protective. Hazaras are so disloyal, unfaithful, and unfriendly that they do not deserve to be even like dogs, and as such, God has created them a different species other than humans.

2. Dogs in Islam are considered najis (Arabic word), meaning untouchable and unclean. Hazaras are so vicious, wicked, and dirty that dogs are way kosher and clean that deserve to be kept as friends but not Hazaras. They must be outcasts.

3. Dogs are animals, and Hazaras are even worse than animals. They have no culture, no religion, and no ethics, and they deserve to be annihilated. 

4. Dogs are also considered infidels. This trope is twofold. One is that Hazaras are infidels. Therefore, they are not Muslim. It has religious and historical bearings, so it is commensurate with the mainstream Sunni doctrine that the Shias are heretics. As a direct result, Hazaras have been subjected to genocide twice in history and almost 100 years apart. One was by King Abdul Rahman during the 1890s, which resulted in 60% extermination, and most recently by the Taliban between 1998 and 2001. Another meaning of this trope is that infidels (any non-Muslim) in the West keep dogs as friends. In a way, it lacks strength, but it also brings back the idea of infidelity and the dehumanizing view that the Hazaras are not part of Islam and should be dealt with like non-Muslims because, ultimately, the purpose is to deprive them of humanity and anything,, that aids this purpose is functional.

These are the four significant and important semantic features of the ethnic slur, "God forbid my dog to be a Hazara," that powerfully pervades the ordinary sense of Afghan racial discriminatory language and thinking against the Hazara people. It has a broader range of invisible but dangerous connotations beyond this blog post. I may come back to this later. 

The primary purpose of this kind of slur is to dehumanize the Hazaras, to dispossess them of their humanness, and to project or see them as less than themselves. Subsequently, what might follow would be cruelty and suffering through different means, resulting in killing Hazaras mercilessly. Based on dehumanization ideology, when you deprive someone of all human qualities, then it's easy to kill them.


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