Afghanistan is home to a multiplicity of ethnic and linguistic groups, aswell as several sects within Islam and other religions. Historic and geographicfactors created and preserved this diversity although varying degrees ofcultural assimilation continuously take place and a considerable degree ofcultural homogeneity exists.
Ethnicity has been extensively explored by scholars; they often disagree. Anysimple classification is bound to have exceptions for Afghan society has neverbeen static within fixed boundaries. The picture has been drawn and redrawnthroughout the course of its history.
Further, ethnicity means different things to different groups. Every groupuses the identification term qaum to explain a complexity ofaffiliations, a network, of families or occupations. Each has a rich density ofmeanings. Every individual belongs to a qaum which provides protectionfrom outside encroachments, cooperation, support, security, and assistance,either social, political or economic. Frequently a village corresponds to a qawm,but it does not necessarily exist in a precise geographic setting. In a morerestricted sense qaum refers to descent groups, from family kin toethnic group. In tribal areas qaum refers to a common genealogy fromextended family, or clan, to tribe to tribal confederation. Most simply, qawmdefines an individual's identity in his social world.
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