An independent film released next month tells the story of what it's like to be young and Muslim in modern day America. Say hello to Mohawk hair, electric guitars and a burqa-wearing feminist. The Taqwacores, adapted from the 2003 cult novel by Michael Muhammed Knight, follows the story of a group of Islamic punks. Dispirited with the rigidity of the Islam practised by their Muslim elders and unable to fit in with their white American peers, these rebel adolescents find a way to express their angst and reclaim their identity through music.
The movie starts with the arrival of Yusef, a naive first-generation Pakistani engineering student who moves off-campus with a group of Muslim punks in Buffalo, New York. His new un-orthodox house-mates soon introduce him to Taqwacore – a hardcore, Muslim punk-rock scene. The living room becomes a mosque during the day and hosts punk parties at night.
The directorial debut of Eyad Zahra, it makes for thought-provoking cinema. Shot on a low budget, it's unapologetic and outspoken and deals with the complexities of being young and Muslim in America; the internal conflict of being a believer while trying to remain true to a divine ideology. It's a far cry from the one-dimensional Muslim identity that is common in Western media, and the movie goes some way to reflect the diversity within the Muslim community – doing so without a radical in sight.
It would be good if, among the hip and cool, the message of the original book isn't lost in the noise. Islam and punk are flags – they're open and can't be tied down. Spirituality is individual and the legitimacy of one's faith can't be defined by anyone else's standards. As Jehangir, the red Mohawk-ed Sufi puts it: "Allah is too big, and too open, for my Islam to be small and closed."
'The Taqwacores' screens from 12 August (www.punkislam.com)