Thursday, August 12, 2010

Muhammad was a Punk Rocker

"Muhammad was a punk rocker, he tore everything down
Muhammad was a punk rocker, and he rocked that town
...
When he was in a dumpster by himself, Allah told him crazy things
For Muhammad to share with all of us,on his six holy strings"

I got down to reading The Taqwacores when I came across a story about The Kominas in the NY Times. I ordered the book within an hour of reading that piece and scouring the internet for more information about the movement that fell at the intersection of Islam and Punk, two sub cultures I never imagined could exist together.

The book, in entirety, was nothing short of epic.
Told by Yusef, a young engineering student who moves off campus to live with people who are all Muslim, “from a certain point of view,” the book covers a, “a Muslim punk house in Buffalo, New York, inhabited by burqa-wearing riot grrrls, mohawked Sufis, straightedge Sunnis, Shi'a skinheads, Indonesian skaters, gay Muslims, drunk Muslims, and feminists. Their living room hosts parties and prayers, with a hole smashed in the wall to indicate the direction of Mecca. Their life together mixes sex, dope, and religion in roughly equal amounts, expressed in devotion to an Islamo-punk subculture, 'taqwacore,' named for taqwa, an Arabic term for consciousness of the divine.”

There are parts of the book that’ll leave you completely lost (unless you studied Islamic culture) and parts that get you thinking about sects, norms and identity, innate and acquired religion and most importantly, subcultures that emerge out of rejecting, on the inside, what foreign society feeds you, and taking it all in and living it up, on the outside, just like everyone else.
One thing though, it’s really easy to tell that this is one of Knight’s first books (having been distributed as a manuscript before being picked up by a publishing house.) But even then, for having spawned an entire music movement and a sub culture of its own, it’s no surprise that the book put Knight in the same position with respect to American and Progressive Islam as with Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson and the Beat Generation.

Ideally, I should have put up a picture of the book, or a poster of the documentary, but I’m going to put the trailer of the movie instead. Imdb tells me that a lot of the characters from the book are missing (no surprise there) but since I was so in love with the mohawked saint Jehangir Tabari, here it is! (Also, the scene in the mosque which appears for a split second at 00:35 in the trailer is one of the best parts of the book.)

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