The Taqwacores: Mosques and Mohicans
Friday 29 July 2011
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)
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