oPPORTUNITIES TO lEARN
While there are many things to learn about our new Afghan neighbors, a few very key points are highlighted below.
“Afghan” is the correct term to refer to people from Afghanistan.
“Afghani” is the term used for their money.
“Halal” is a general term that describes behaviors, foods and actions that are permissible and clean according to Islamic law. What is and isn’t Halal varies depending on cultural and family background.
“Haram” is a general term that describes behaviors, foods and actions that are not permissible and clean according to Islamic law.
“Hijab” refers to the head covering that Muslim women wear when they are in front of any male outside their immediate family.
Men vs Women
Genders are always separated in social and public settings. As a general rule, women should be careful not to accidentally touch Afghan men, and should not make eye contact or talk to the men directly, nor be alone with them. Having enough male volunteers to transport the men to appointments and to practice English will be critical.
Both women and men should dress modestly when interacting with our Afghan friends – no shorts.
Pork & Alcohol
If you are serving food, be certain no pork products are present or even in sight, as they would consider this to contaminate everything. Alcohol should also not be served nor within sight.
Most Afghans are very afraid of dogs and consider them unclean. If you have dogs and plan to have Afghan friends over for dinner, dogs should be kept completely separate from the entertaining area.
Prayer & Scriptures
Muslims regard the Quran as a very holy book to be treated with respect and honor, so they will be shocked if they see your Bible lying on the floor, on a table with other books piled on top, marked up with pen and highlighters, in the bathroom, etc. Simply be sensitive to the impression you are making.
Muslims must pray 5 times a day facing east towards Mecca, so be sensitive to this when planning schedules. Generally, this means:
- Before sunrise
- Late afternoon
- Just after sunset
- Between sunset and midnight
The main languages are Dari or Farsi (Afghan Persian) and Pashto (an eastern Iranian language). Farsi and Dari are two dialects of the same language, and while they might look the same in written format, they sound very different when spoken.
The languages available in Google Translate are Persian and Pashto.
Links to other resources
Link to the Catholic Charities website
Helpful document on the history of Afghanistan, the culture, and how to deal with trauma.
Lesson plans for teaching English to Afghan Refugees