The Muslim, Pashtuns like Amir and Baba practice
The first encounter between Assef and the two boys makes the differences between Hazaras and Pashtuns very clear and gives us a glimpse at how much following a different religion, or branch of one can affect social classes. While most characters in the beginning of the story are Muslim, Pashtuns like Amir and Baba practice Sunni Islam, while Hazaras like Ali and Hassan practice Shi’a Islam. Hazaras are prosecuted because of their opinions about religion. Assef is a Pashtun and therefore is considered superior to Hassan, so he finds it normal to mistreat him and other Hazaras, as we can tell when he says “‘Hey, Flat-Nose'” (Hosseini 39) and treats him with disgust for the rest of the exchange. Assef finds Hazaras disgusting and doesn’t see them as humans. He can’t even fathom why Amir would treat Hassan as a friend.
When he asked how Amir and Hassan could be friends “he sounded as baffled as he looked” (Hosseini 41) since he had been raised to think them lower than him, and the fact that someone who was supposed to be smart and better than Hassan actually treated him like a human being. In the end of their exchange, Assef is about to attack Amir, but Hassan jumps in to protect him, and Assef’s two companions are fascinated because “someone had challenged their god. Humiliated him. And, worst of all, that someone was a skinny Hazara.” (Hosseini 42). They are confused at a Hazara is standing up to them, and can’t fathom that someone as amazing as Assef can be hurt by a lowly servant.
The exchange highlights how the class divide between the two religions, though they are very similar, makes the Sunni people seem like an entirely different species.