taqwacore: punk meets islam

headerWe yogis think we have it rough, straddling East and West, navigating our spiritual and material lives, wondering where we fit in the greater scheme of things. However, it’s not as difficult as being young, Muslim and punk rock in post-911 America.

A new film, Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam, documents the evolution of the Muslim punk scene. Who knew there even was one? Well, there is, and it’s as riotous, rebellious and controversial as you’d imagine. The term “taqwacore” (which is composed of ‘taqwa,’ the Arabic word for divine consciousness, and ‘core,’ as in hardcore) was conceived by author Michael Muhammad Knight in his 2003 novel, The Taqwacores. The book, a work of fiction, gained cult status and inspired a loosely connected network of young Muslim punks from across North America, who started identifying as taqwacore and expressing the complexities of their lives through music.

Life imitates art and then becomes art again when Montréal-based filmmaker (and yoga student of yours truly!), Omar Majeed, started working on a documentary about the scene a few years ago. He went on a US tour with The Kominas, one of the most vocal taqwacore bands, and Michael Muhammad Knight, and then followed the whole crew to Pakistan. The Montréal Mirror says of the film:

The challenges and contradictions that the taqwacores face in each culture are woven in with some deeply affecting personal journeys, resulting in a film that opens your mind and stays with you long after viewing. “The documentary offers a chance to really ‘get’ taqwacore, what it is and what it is not,” says Knight. “Some say that we’re not Muslim enough, and some say that we’re not punk enough. But labels aren’t cool; people are cool. People make a lot of assumptions about us based on the ‘Muslim punk’ label, and the film smashes them down.”

Taqwacore opens in Toronto on October 16 (at the Royal Cinema, 608 College), and plays in Montréal from October 19 (at Cinema du Parc, 3575 ave du Parc). At the moment, there are no US screenings scheduled.

Words can’t do this film justice, so be sure to watch the trailer on the film’s website. And check out this interview with the author and filmmaker on CBC radio’s Q.

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  1. Fascinating.

    Have they contacted adidas yet for an endorsement?

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. I have heard of these guys on the cbc- the interview was extremely interesting. Did you get to see them?

    • Yeah, I saw the film last week. It was amazing. Not only does it pose lots of interesting questions about identity and the tensions between tradition and evolution, but it’s really engaging, entertaining and well-made. If you get a chance to see it, do!

  3. this sounds so interesting, as someone who is muslim and lives in north america I definitely can resonate with the idea of the film… identity should be a a fluid, morphing evolution, yet we often get stuck in limiting ourselves to one particular identity or few identities and it sounds like the film asks those valid and powerful questions. thanks for posting.