Thursday, April 19, 2007

Taqwacore : Islamic Punk-Rock Quashes Public Opinions...

The Rise of The American Muslim Punk!
Photos and Story by Kim Badawi

"For the last 70 to 100 years Western media, Hollywood movies, novelists have done the Islamic world a big disservice.. They depicted the Arabs as barbaric, intolerant, backward, cruel..But where are the 20th century Arabs and Muslims? The ones that are doctors, intellectuals, professors, lawyers. business men and women.? No objective coverage is made of them .However, they contribute to this country ,they are plenty of Muslim and Arab Americans that are exactly all of the above and are contributing to this nation." 1

Basim, from the Kominas shares backstage with The Genders, a band from Tel Aviv, Israel.

How can one forget the mention of punks!?!. Well, yes...just like everything in the United States, Muslim punk musicians do exist!! Aside from all prejudice, young American Muslims across the American continent aspire to smother all stereotypes about their origins while maintaining their freedom to expression, as true Americans.
Koroush, aka Vote Hezbollah, in San Antonio, Texas.

It's a sunny Fourth of July weekend and Basim's parents are out. What they don't know is that their son, Basim, is hosting - in their very own backyard- a wrestling match between novelist Michael Mohammad Knight and Ibrahim Cooper, a representative for the Council of American-Islamic Relations, or rather just a guy who looks like him. As Michael climbs to the ring to defend his third-time Egyptian title tension settles in. Agitation grows among the crowd of drunken Muslim punks and lost white boys. For the next hour, the two adversaries spend their time throwing chairs at each other, smashing their heads against things, throwing each other onto or off of other things, tossing each other onto beds of tacks, or barbed wire. Choking each other with flags, etc... All of this of course, while in choreograph of some Quoranic fable against piety and under in the occasion of thrown rubber fists and over-sized dildos.
Somewhere in the mist of this turmoil, The Kominas, a local Muslim Punk band bust out one of their hits that has the crowd screaming, “Suicide bomb the GAP ! Yes, as in, the GAP store; until the eventual and anticipated intervention of the only on-duty police squadron that, surely at request of the neighbors, has decide to drop to check up this somehow synchronized incoherent event. As the clock ticks it's way a little past noon, and the fight continues on the Usmani's property, in this small friendly quiet town of Lexington Massachusetts, in an all-American suburbia.

Upon the celebration of the Eid al Ahda Shaji lays a big farty on coconut Burfi and Saddam's regime.

It is a fact, that for many first and second-generation immigrant populations around the world, the practice of Islam has remained a means of individuals staying connected to one culture while continuing to live in their country of birth. Islam has a short history in the United States but it is important to note however, that the public understanding of this faith in the United States, has much little to do with the actual global consensus and actual practice of Islam in the world, today.
Following the assumption that all are free to chose freely his or her faith, and the possibly of free interpretion, then it is fair to say, that Muslim punksters around the world are indeed- true Muslims as they feel they share a very unique relationship and responsibility with their divine.

Basim in the basement of his parent house, watches Seinfeld while checking for messages.

Today’s Arab American and Muslim youth are virtually undistinguishable from the rest of the country’s young folks. However, in light of recent events, this invisibility has been shattered and by consequence, Arab and Muslim communities through out the continent, have reported feeling vulnerable openly targeted, stereotyped and even subject to racist remarks2 as as a result of volatile public opinion echoed in the media. As an example, the Muslim punk musical genre is only but an expression of young Muslim and Arab Americans to feel represented and therefore empowered in US society. If anything, Muslim punks are not only Americans who are proud of their family's origins and faith but are more than likely to be the most full hearted Americans, there is. As astonishingly as it many sound, numbers do show that in fact a very large percentage of young American Muslims ( and Arabs) in United States actuality live a lifestyle that isn't within the rules of their heritage but rather, entirely contradictory to that of their cultural upbringing3. Again, this is all ok, but only in America...

The Kominas at the Abbey Lounge.

Taqwacore today is more than just a musical genre, it is a global worldwide creative movement inspired by the writings of Michael Mohammad Knight, in his novel by the same name. The Taqwacores depicts a fictitious Islamic punk rock scene which today, actually inspired artists, writers and musicians across the World. The novel has also been credited by Asra Q. Nomani as first presenting her first with the idea for woman-led prayer, and leading to a historical woman-led congregation on March 18, 2005. It is also important to include that The Taqwacores has also served as inspiration to many of today's play writes and scenarists and even experimental theater. The movement has also served to inspired further genres such as Raicore.

Novelist, Mike Mohammad Knight, plays with his imaginary friends.

Although never quite defined by Knight, the term Taqwacores seems to define a collective of American artists who, having never met, were brought together by the writings in The Taqwacores. It is true that coincidentally that many Taquacores are Islam coverts or just happen to have family from somewhere in the Axes of Evil. Either way, both have chosen a lust for expression and a vow of submission despite the ongoing distortion of Islam's public image in the world today.
A tour of
Taqwacore artists is scheduled this coming summer throughout the United States and will be sure to make a stop by the ISNAC- The Islamic Society of North America's convention, to "crash the party", as it is now custom. When? Somewhere around Chicago, sometime around Labor Day weekend...

The following are some links to Taqwacore material, musical tracks and thoughts.

The Kominas' Myspace Page
Diacritical's official Website
Vote Hezbollah~Myspace
Al Thawra's Myspace page
Ashra/Sabataashr (10-17)
the Sagg Taqwacore Syndicate
the Taqwacore/Avante Movement


The Rupture Project
Deaf Indian Muslim British Punk Gurl @ herSpace

Michael Mohammad Knight's Bio on Wikipedia
Uncensored excepts from the novel: The Taqwacores.

Blogs & Pages:

The Kominas' official Website
Punkistani:!Jihadi Pastrami! LiveJournal
Palestinian Drag-King Blog: Mayhem Politics.
Anthrogal's Blog.

More Multimedia & Video documents:
Video: Backyard wrestling match between Michael Mohammad Knight and Ibrahim Cooper.
Photo Slide-show: The Birth of the Muslim Punk music genre in the USA!
Video: The Kominas denied entry into a mosque because "music is haram" .
Video: Omar Majeed's " The Taqwacores" Documentary Trailer!

1 Mr.Nihad Awad Executive Director of the Council of American/Islamic relationship. speaks with Charlie Rose on the 9th of February 2006.
2 What Every American Should Know. ML Rossi. Penguin Press Ltd. 2003 pg. 153
3 Arab Studies Quartley, Volume 26; # 2. Spring 2004. A Publication of the Associated of Arab American University
Graduates. P.16.