Taqwacore. Documented. X2

With regard to one of the most well documented subcultures I’ve ever seen, there are two major Taqwacore events culminating in this month: a documentary and a photography book (Past SM Taqx post here, here and here). The first would be the Canadian premiere of the documentary full length movie Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam. Documentary producer Omar Majeed in conjunction with EyeSteelFilm, follows author Michael Muhammad Knight and subsequent Taqwacore bands for four years to make this film.Taqx Doc Movie Image.jpg

In the first part of the film, Knight organizes a taqwacore tour of the U.S., bringing the Kominas, Vancouver-based Islamic riot-grrl trio Secret Trial Five, and a shapeshifting crew on the road. After documenting this Islamic twist on the typical hijinks and humiliations of the road, the chapter climaxes with an appearance at ISNA…The film’s second half is even more interesting, as Knight, Khan and Usmani travel to Pakistan, where their efforts to bring politicized rock to the people encounters a whole different form of opposition.

“To some extent,” [says Omar Majeed], “the reason I called the film The Birth of Punk Islam is because I saw this whole process as a kind of birthing. It wasn’t just that this was happening and I was filming it, but rather that by my being there and filming it, we managed to give birth to this thing. I think that kind of shows in the filmmaking, the way it’s put together. I’m not always rushing to get the other side of things, I’m not looking to be journalistic or fair and balanced. I’m really trying to tell their story in a way that I find relatable.”[montrealmirror]

The film has been well received at the Vancouver International Film Festival and The Kominas and Sarmust joined Majeed for the Montreal screening this past weekend. It looked like it was a huge success with a packed audience (watch the q&a here) and the film tour continues to Toronto this weekend. If you are in Toronto, go Saturday for the TaqwaToronto after the screenings with a fantastic line up performers including The Kominas, Sarmust, Secret Trial Five, and panel discussion including Knight.

GIVEAWAY: We have two tickets available to the October 17th Saturday night screening and TaqwaToronto concert in Toronto! Details after the jump…Taqx Photo Book Cover.jpgTo win, please come up with your best song title for The Kominas next song (i.e. Sharia Law in the USA, Suicide Bomb the Gap). Put it in the comments. Wittiest title wins (extra points if you can make it a Sex Pistol/Islam fusion of a pun). You have till Oct 15th, midnight. Please include your e-mail so we can contact you with the tickets.

Also there, will be acclaimed photographer Kim Badawi. Badawi’s photography book The Taqwacores: Muslim Punk in the USA hit bookstores last month and I had the joy of joining the Taqwacore crew in Brooklyn for the launch of his book. Published by PowerHouse Books, PowerHouse Arena has a photography exhibit of Badawi’s photos through October 25th. The photos on exhibit are amazing, able to capture the a community in a way that only someone from the inside can. If in Dumbo, I highly suggest stopping by.

Beginning in 2006, Badawi traveled across the U.S. with the musicians who had been spurred to action by Knight’s creative vision. In 2007 he was invited to accompany the TaqwaTour, traveling to major cities across North America alongside bands including The Kominas and Secret Trial Five. As the genre continues to take shape and influence a rising generation of artists and intellectuals, Badawi’s The Taqwacores stands as a photographic companion to the original text and an indispensable document of the making of a movement.[powerhouse]

Many of the images in the book can be seen in the above slide show set to the tune Muhammad Was a Punk Rocker sung by Taqwacore band Vote Hezbollah. More updated pictures by Badawi can be found at Up The Taqx. Kim Badawi’s other photos (he’s following Fairies in his next project) can be found at his site here. And of course, you can buy your copy of The Taqwacores: Muslim Punk in the USA through powerHouse Books or at a bookstore near you.

On a personal note, it’s been exciting to see this community grow over the years. I didn’t know who The Kominas, Knight, or any of the bands were before I wrote this first post (Halal Punkers) back in 2006 and here we are now three years later with Knight, Usmani and Rai showing up at the Sepia Mutiny meetup in Boston. The Taqwacore crew has built up a community similarly to the way the mutinous community has been built. As a space it’s about as real as it gets, the people in the space are genuine and if you get the chance, I highly recommend checking out the documentary and the photo book.

Previous Posts: Halal Punkers, You’re So Punk, Up the Taqx Near You!, and Wild Nights with The Kominas.

75 thoughts on “Taqwacore. Documented. X2

  1. Oh get off it Mahesh? Lexington is not the whitest or most elite suburb in Massachusetts. There’s many Chinese vocalists singing in LA and Hong Kong from Lexington. Half of the Dresden Dolls are from there. Members of the Boston crust band, Class Action, went to highschool with me. And only one of four members of the Kominas is from there. Honestly, you should come to a show, a show we play in Boston. It’s easier than naysaying every single time we’re written up here.

  2. “There IS a cool Islam. You just have to find it.”

    Not sure what to think about that. I guess they think they are the cool Islam. A rarity that apparently one has to search for. The rest of Islam not cool like them. I am not sure that was a nice thing to say. Yeah, Islam is not as lame as you think it is, no really, somewhere out there, there is a cool version of it, and it is us the Taqwacore punk rockers. We’re Muslim, we’re punk rockers, therefore we’re cool. In fact we’re double cool because being Muslim punk rockers makes us cool among punk rockers, and being punk rockers makes us cool Muslims.

  3. People here have a tendency to negatively over-analyze and tear everything to shreds before ever listening to the music or watching the movie, etc. Has everyone already seen this documentary? No. So these negative comments have no significance.

    I too am not into punk music but have a HUGE appreciation for what these guys are doing. Do you people want them to stop and not have made this documentary at all? Would that make your lives a lot better? They are doing something they care about and a lot of other people outside of friggan Sepia Mutiny clearly care about it too. What kind of mark or change are you nay sayers making on anyone else’s life? Loosen up.

    I’m really excited to see it. I think this would do really well in parts of India too…I’ll be going to Bangalore soon and bet there’s a huge community there that would be very open to it.

  4. I don’t think any one is saying stop what you are doing. Do what you want to do. If you do some good, what ever that is, great. But to me you’re not cool because your punk rockers who are muslim, nor because your muslims who are punk rockers. If you are going to wear religion on your sleeve (or on that flag with a Muslim with a Mohawk sitting down for prayer) don’t expect everyone to think it is as special as you think it is. You’re cool to me if you play good music, even if it is a genre I don’t particularly like.

  5. Wow, people are vindictive here. If the invocation of Islam/religion or the music bothers you, don’t listen to it and move on.

    Don’t get all huffed up and act like you’re superior. Jesus.

  6. to be frank with you, taqwacore is arab thing. it’s not a desi. you should not be talking about it on this one website.

    soon arabs will reclaim taqwacore. yous desi people have no respect for what awesome.

  7. the problem is that once you do listen, the shine comes off and it’s just like anything else available from a top 40 form radio station: product of entitlement, the wealth of choices available to such entitled individuals (Pakistan, US–that’s a wealthy person choice) and punk-standard musicianship.

  8. Wasn’t it established already by one of the Kominas themselves elsewhere here on SM that none of them are practicing Muslims anymore and at least one of them is an atheist?

    Therefore their music cannot be considered Islamic punk, but rather just (culturally) Pakistani-American punk.

    So where is the problem?

  9. To whomever designed it – that green & white poster is freaking awesome.

    Agreed, that’s some rockin’ graphics. Props to the designer.

  10. Look, lets get a couple of things clear here. I want you to try and think of music genres in which musicians make a cohesive political point that in turn gives rise to the expected political change in society. Unless you are from South Africa, Mexico, or a few other select places, in most of the Western world you will find there is a lack of material that qualifies. Punk included. Apart from Crass, which punk bands actually pushed politics expecting change, or enacted real (not aesthetic) cultural change? Singing about political things is all fine and good, but it’s not always the best medium for propaganda, which is the wood for the fire of political movement.

    So lets please not talk about the political point of Taqwacores. There isn’t any, at least nothing you can qualify enough to disagree with. The kind of people who will talk to you about a cohesive political point will not receive your questions with answers and speak mostly from pages of glossy magazines about how in their minds, four or five somewhat defunct bands of 250 miles or more distance between each comprise a scene. These writings which you have been shoveling onto the embers of this debate are mostly outsiders to punk and uninterested in the real content of taqwacore. They come to us with articles already fully conceived and use the power of selective perception to get the soundbytes they need out of our mouths to back themselves up. In that light, you might find it rude that we are” saving islam from itself”, and “putting the Islam back in punk” or whatever horsecrap they talk about. Believe me, I find it deplorable too.

    About the Islamic Hindu Desi Arab thing; for Christs sake why does everyone want to lay claim or disclaimer to this ‘thing’ along party lines? This does not belong to anyone, its like trying to can the air around their head to save memories for later. This is not a thing you can claim unless you contribute, and no one has committed such egregious acts in the name of Taqwacore that the mass of contributors has decided to oust them. To put a fine point on it, all of the Kominas are Desi, even though Jinnah had a big idea once after the British shat on our houses of government before leaving for good. I’m the Indian, they are all Pakistani. I’m not going to pretend that we have any reason to even notice this in our life in America. Besides that, we eat and live the same culture and that is the glue. There is also something that stick between us and Marwans band, the Rai Crust Al-Thawra that has to do with collective Islamic history, of which I am not directly a part. If you start adding in the other bands and people we associate with, then you will start to have trouble defining the borders of what is and is no longer part of Taqwacore and what exactly the glue is. It most definitely will not fit under Muslim punk, or Bollywood punk, or Desi punk at that point, or even necessarily under punk at all. Our reasons for conglomerating are the flipside of a rich and varied cultural history that ties huge part of the world together through thousands of years. You can’t believe that Taqwacore is Muslim punk as much as you can study the history of Indian and ignore the Persian, Mughals etc.

    And for chrissakes stop with the middle class shit. Are ye from the fackin UK? Do you shop at SEX and play in an Oi Streetpunk band? Is it 77′ or am I lost? “Real punk isn’t art school and comes from the working class kids.” give me a fucking break. most of them would beat your brown heads in with their working class fists, y’all could be Pakis needin a bashin. American hardcore was a resolutely middle class thing and included few enough brown people that Bad Brains was seen as a spiritual experience rather than just and amazing hardcore band. Brown people in small numbers doing cool things gets white people all blissed out. We were part of neither thing directly (much much too late) and draw from both. We live in middle class towns, so what should we do? Excusivity along class lines is bullshit in my opinion when it come to punk. My parents came here as dishwahers while they got degrees. I htey live in Suburbia now, I see it as confused, not as our assimilation into WASP culture. Sure I’ve got things to be mad about, and we don’t fit in. Do I need to pretend my parents are poor white New England fisherman to give my anger the credibility it lacks. No.

  11. EDIT: Do I need to pretend my parents are poor white New England fisherman to give my anger the credibility it apparently lacks. No.

    And why are you guys all on Imran’s case about drumming? Have you been to any of our shows? And if you did, how come I’ve never heard of you or remember arguing with you, Mr. Internet Heroes? Imran has not been on any of our first album recordings, so why don’t we see you next time, before you start hammering away at the musical proficiency of our drummer. My brother Karna was drumming on most of the tracks on the album, and I’m not even gong to try and give validity to my background in more complex music than punk to say that he is one of the best drummers around, and anyone who has seen him play can confirm it. You can think what you want about the album songs, but the drumming is solid.

  12. Taqx Photo Book Cover.jpgTo win, please come up with your best song title for The Kominas next song (i.e. Sharia Law in the USA, Suicide Bomb the Gap). Put it in the comments. Wittiest title wins (extra points if you can make it a Sex Pistol/Islam fusion of a pun). You have till Oct 15th, midnight. Please include your e-mail so we can contact you with the tickets.

    this is lame

  13. Hiya Folks.

    Being of a certain age, and having been active within the English Punk scene for the last 30 years or so, I feel I have to chip in with my two pennorth on the subject of so called ‘Taqwacore’, or ‘Muslim Punk’ (?), if you will. Religion has always been anathema to the overwhelming majority of Punks, both punters and bands alike. From Lydon’s opening verse of ‘Anarchy in the UK’ right through to todays younger bands, the general view of religion hasn’t changed much. ‘Crass’ were vehemently critical of that other desert religion, Christianity – just check out them lyrics – vicious! Backward superstition, homophobia, sexism, and conservative, patriarchal, traditionalism have no place in Punk Rock. Merely adopting an outlandish haircut, and playing bombastic rock music doesn’t a Punk Rocker make! It’s more to do with rejecting the norms of society, and even more to do with attitude – not espousing the supposed virtues of the religious dogma laid down by your parents, priests, vicars, rabbis or imams. Be a real rebel, and tell religion to FUCK RIGHT OFF!

    Red Dan.

  14. Taqwacores/you dont get it do you?????The only muslim/asian kids who would want to be punks or are inclined towards it are those who want to get away from, or have no relationship with their own culture.The need to be different,not to be like the other asian kids.. By attempting(very unsuccesfully) to create a scene (i guess m knight is your culture vulture/malcolm mclaren-thats what afrika bambatta called him to express his distate !) based on their asianness or giving them a desi punk,the whole need to be a punk is taken away from them.

    Be a real rebel,and tell religion to FUCK RIGHT OFF! man you need to grow up.Religion is the new counter culture…your jonny rottens/sid vicouces are the new gods of the mainstream culture…sex drugs and rock and roll is the mainstream and never has and never will be anything to do with rebellion.Rebellion …pahh such a bourgewoise concept anyway ,that only fake rebels could create.

    YOU know my Sufi teacher saw a punk once with one hugh spike on his head..it looked like it was superglued ( this was in asia too)…i asked him what he thought about the guy..he just smiled and said..it must be difficult for him to sleep without messing his hair up…

    that kind of really woke me up to punk rock..it was like a zen koan..all that self hate and ugly noise…its utterly ridiculous really isnt it??It just a waste of energy trying to find some glory in being a fuck up…all so removed from the things that are true ,real and important in life…

    Really Asians who should know better,creating a crappy movement after reading some white mans tantrum at not getting his way with god…how sad and pathetic…

  15. American hardcore was a resolutely middle class thing –

    true which just proves that their is nothing inherently rebellious about it,hardcore haasent affected nor has the capacity to effect any real change.it just perpetuates the pop culture it is part of ,yet tries to be seperate from…..I mean the whole need to be a rebel,is a middle class thing..a figment of middle class guilt or boredom or whatever to give rich kids some sense of meaning in life.. Making all that ugly noise again is mainly a middle class thing…..working class people generally dont like it…theres enough noise down the pit as they say in england..

    Punk as practised by the kominas..is a contrivance,a product of bohemian culture..in the 60;s with the velvets and warhol….thats where it started..in the 70’s you had the art scene in new york..and then the very middle class (properbly jewish mclaren)made it very calculatingly into a shock sells vehicle..the hardcore scene was more organic i suppose..but hardcore doesnt really go on about rebellion..it just focuses on issues of living a real life…

    the kominas are in the shock/fake./arthouse strand of punk culture..if you were a hardcore band you wouldnt be trying to do all this stupid media shit.. i loved the bad brains..grew up with bands like youth of today/shelter and earth crisis…so i dont have a problem with punks who have religous values..in fact one of the guys mentioned bad brains to give the kominas position some reference..sorry kominas can in no way in any shape form or fashion be compared to the legend that is bad brains..

    the bad brains jst happned…the kominas tried to happen..also the bad brains played music in away nobody had ever played before…well so do the kominas except they dont play it in a particularly inspiring way..

    Also Bad brains respected religion and werent afraid to show their stand against homosexuality..they werent ashamed to be themselves ..i just get the feeling the kominas are ashamed to be themselves and are playing the islam card so white culture vultures like jello biafra get to feed their middle class fantasies…(white man feels radical because he is supporting tthe oppressed ethnic minority man–tired!)

    Jello knows the white boy rebellion stuff is playted out.hes been trying to get his kciks from the ethnics for a long time…he once said in the ghettoes ,the hispanic kids were giving up hip hop and listening to death metal?????That was just hius imagination..he made it sound like it was happening all over america..you know like some core underground movement!!

    ..the taqwacore movement is just cheap blasphemous potshots at sacred religous symbols…youre rebelling against religion in the way the white man taught you…he must be well pleased!!

  16. nothingiscool, so much of what you said strikes me as shoddily informed and subjectively twisted that i am just going to assume you are trying to be a contrarian but have somehow failed by hanging onto a set of confusing beliefs which form the undercurrent of your noxious babbling. Plus, you have none of the wit or charm of Chris Hitchens or Ann Coulter, so keep your latent homophobia to yourself. Seriously, what the hell are you going on about?

    Red Dan: I suggest you read Mike Knight’s book, then watch the documentary, and the feature film. What you decide to do with it afterwards is up to you, but if you are looking for a dumpster to toss the trash, we’ve already been there and done that. Fuck Muslim punk. Here’s a little illustration from the bowels of my creativity to illustrate my gut reaction to the ‘genre’ http://imgur.com/U1XUl.jpg I couldn’t give a shit about proselytizing about Islam through dinosaur music that once, thirty years ago, was FRESH and stood for cultural rebellion.

    The truth is that in order to continue to label us as Muslim Punks or to say that Taqwacore == Muslim Punk would require some real analysis of the content. Try and find me a song in the Kominas repertoire that professes earnest fear/love of Allah (Taqwa-) or wholeheartedly endorses any particular religion. To say that kids who grew up as Muslims can’t play punk rock about where they are from is patently absurd by the same principles that disallow overtly religious bands to be including in the ‘DIY consesus’ as real punk. Punk has been and will continue to be a primarily Caucasian music, written by Caucasians about the things that bother Caucasians. We aren’t white, but we like the music, the attitude, and the ethic. So this is where we come from. If you don’t like the songs, thats fine, but the religio-cultural criticism of the band is starting to get tiring.

    BTW, here are a list of glaring exceptions to the punk ethic you have described..how did these slip through? Bad Brains, Shelter, Cro-Mags, most anything Hard-line, Crisis –>Death in June

    and these guys all actually seemed to believe in what they were doing. We’re just fucking around, relax.

  17. Arjun :

    I have no idea who hitchens or coulture (culture vulture ) are…nor will i be making any attempt to find out.i figure if they had something significant to say about the the hardcore scene that interested me then i would have heard of them by now..properbly a bunch of bohemians or academics or worst of all nme type journmalist.

    As for my homophobia… what homophobia.??Even i was to disagree with homosexuality on a certain level,which i do(as do alot of people in the hardcore scene) what has that gotto do with this issue here?.I dont feel the need to conform to some pc concept of equal rights to fit into some kind of punk rock acceptability…hey i work with and even went to gigs with some queers…they dont seem to think im homopohobic…

    btw :what exactly about my post is ill informed..your reponse was a hardly a scathing critique was it …

    Basically no muslim kids (or punk rock kids for that matter,apart from the arty wimps wit htheir arent they so exotic like a pakistani ramones variety)are interested in your package rebellion.,,the kids might be stupid alright,but theyre not that stupid..

    but the religio-cultural criticism of the band is starting to get tiring.

    well hey if you left that out of your lyrics and shock thetrics you wouldnt open yourself up to such criticism,you cant have it both ways..

    …you would be judged purely as a punk band,in which case you would be universally…ignored properbly..well i suppose you know that dont you!