The Taqwacores – a novel about a fictitious Muslim punk scene in the US – has spawned an actual movement that is being driven forward by young Muslims worldwide. Some bands – such as the Kominas – have a cult following. Others, such as Sabina, are virtually unknown. In a brief email exchange, she lays out some harsh truths.
What does taqwacore mean to you?
“It means being true to myself, having my own faith, and interpreting Islam the way I want to, without feeling guilty or being looked down at by other Muslims.”
What is the future for taqwacore?
“It’s gonna get bigger. A lot of Muslim kids are tired of being told what to do, how to think, what to believe in, and how to act, by their parents. There are ‘the angry muslim kids’ who wanna grow beards and pray five times a day, and then there are the OTHER ‘angry Muslim kids’ who wanna get drunk and say a huge big ‘fuck you’ to the Muslim population. Or maybe they just don’t care and wanna sit at home and not think about Osama’s video speeches about how America is the Great Satan.”
How her words would fare with Michael Muhammad Knight, author of The Taqwacores and an unwitting idol to the young and restless, is anyone’s guess. Knight, who is 29 and lives in New York with his dog Sunny – “not as in Sunni Muslim” – downplays his achievement of single-handedly inspiring this subculture that has produced artists such as the Kominas, Secret Trial Five, Vote Hezbollah, Al-Thawra, 8-Bit and Diacritical.
“One kid,” he says, “thought the book was non-fiction and thought that stuff in the book actually happened. He got in touch. He said if it wasn’t real, that he would make it real.” He sounds worried by the suggestion that his book will be a manifesto for Muslim punks. “If the scene develops, I don’t want it to be based on my book.”
The words stable, door, horse and bolt spring to mind. Some Muslims are deeming his book to be nothing short of a revelation. “When I read The Taqwacores,” says Basim Usmani, frontman of The Kominas, “all my reservations about Islam melted away.”
I still half think that this must be satire.
I believe these young men are from the band the Kominas. The man in the tie talks reallllly fast, I can’t understand his English a whole lot better than his Arabic.