I was talking with a friend who told me that Afghani is an offensive term for someone from Afghanistan, and I should use Afghan instead. Is this term offensive?
The wiktionary entry1 for Afghani reads:
- A citizen or native of Afghanistan. From an Afghan point of view this name is wrongly being used for Afghans. After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan millions of Afghans took refuge in neighboring Pakistan. The Pakistanis and the international aid agencies coined this word to speak of Pakistanis versus the Afghans2.
- (usually lowercase) A monetary currency used in Afghanistan, divided into 100 pul.3
Purists will advocate the use of the former (Afghan) while well meaning ethnically minded people will often prefer the latter (Afghani) with no offensive connotation at all. Here is a randomly picked example.
I can see at least two reasons why Afghani could be perceived as offensive.
Its resemblance with Paki, a deliberately derogatory term for Pakistani.
The expression “Afghani Arab”. Afghanis are these Muslim fighters (mujahideen) from Arab countries who joined the various resistance movements in the last two decades of Afghan wars. In this sense, the final ‘i’ is the Arabic suffix marking an origin. The Arabic word for Afghan is also pronounced afġān (افغان). This is probably the meaning that your friend had in mind.
Wiktionary is actually missing a third meaning: Afghani being also a lesser used synonym for the Pashtu language.
To be understood as “The Pakistanis and the international aid agencies coined this word to speak of Pakistanis [Afghans] versus the Afghans [who stayed in Afghanistan]”.
Because of the succession of governments in Afghanistan, Afghanis banknotes are often redesigned and are both affordable and appreciated by banknotes collectors. My preferred one.