The Taqwacore Movement: Muslim Punk Bands Taking Over

By Guest Columnist Oct 20, 2009

By Tanzila Ahmed This post originally appeared on Sepia Mutiny.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.

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.” [Montreal Mirror]

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 and the film tour continues to Toronto. 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.